Feb. 25, 2021 brought the passage of the Equality Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, a piece of LGBTQ+ rights legislation which puts an end to discrimination based off of one’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
This bill, which serves as an expansion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed by former President Lyndon B. Johnson, adds onto the banned discrimination against an individual based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin and now gender identity or sexual orientation.
The legislation’s explicit differentiation between sex versus gender identity and sexual orientation in the legislation ensures that the protections under law cannot face misinterpretation that may have previously arisen due to the grouping of gender identity and sexual orientation under sex.
This emphasis on the differentiation came as a result of the June 2020 Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provided protections for LGBTQ+ Americans, as it fell under the category of sex. By placing emphasis on the separate categories, the legislation ensures the protections of LGBTQ+ Americans.
Under the legislation, it is illegal for anyone to face discrimination based on factors such as housing, education, employment, certain financial services and various other circumstances. Protections under the bill also expand to programs which receive federal dollars known as “public accommodations.”
Back in 2019, the House of Representatives passed this legislation with a vote of 236-173 after numerous reintroductions of the bill throughout the years. The bill advanced to the Senate where it failed to receive a hearing and did not progress any further.
Three Republicans, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick, John Katko and Tom Reed, crossed party lines to join Democrats in a final vote of 224-306. This is a drop from the amount of Republican support for the bill, with eight Republicans Representatives having previously voted for the bill in 2019.