Equality Act Advances to U.S. Senate

The anti-discrimination bill for the LGBT+ community has passed the House of Representatives and is expected to face challenges from the Republican minority in the Senate.

Muskan Naqvi, Staff Artist

On February 25th, 2021,  the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, making a huge stride for LGBTQA+ rights. The bill was first introduced in 2019, and was reintroduced on the 18th of February this year following Joe Biden’s inauguration and Democrats’ newfound control of the Senate. It passed with a vote of 224-206, with every Democrat plus 3 Republicans voting in favor. If it passes the Senate and is signed in by President Biden, the bill will protect people from “discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity”. 

The bill prohibits discrimination in public facilities and accommodations. It extends the definition and reach of these areas, defining them as an establishment for recreation, transportation, goods and services, and much more. With this, it also protects transgender individuals from being denied access to facilities such as locker rooms or bathrooms. Among the formally recognized areas of protection are education, funding, housing, credit, work and in regards to the jury system. Lastly, the bill allows for government interference in cases where there is discrimination in a federal court in regards to gender or sexuality.

While the bill has been largely applauded for providing the LGBTQA+ community legal protections, it’s been criticized by conservative politicians in Congress and some religious communities. Much of the backlash has been towards the section regarding transgender people using public facilities based on their gender identity. Rep. Andy Briggs and House Minority Leader Kevil McCarty protest the bill, bringing up the dispute of trans athletes and claiming freedom of religion, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene even posting an anti-transgender sign outside her office. Despite this backlash, Democrats’ majority in the Senate (not to mention the possibility of some Republican support) and the presumed support of President Biden all but guarantee its passage.

While opposition for LGBTQA+ rights still exists among lawmakers, the Equality Act is a huge step in the right direction to offer the community safety and security—giving them the power to challenge discriminatory practices through the law itself and hopefully opening doors for more positive change in the future.