The U.S. House on Thursday approved a bill that expands civil rights protections to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
While the measure marks the first breakthrough in the LGBT + agenda under President Joe Biden, the prospect is that the law is unlikely to be upheld by the Senate – it must go through both chambers to take effect.
In a House led by a Democratic majority, the legislation passed a small margin of 224 in favor to 206 against – only three Republican lawmakers backed the bill.
The measure, known as the Equality Act, seeks to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add explicit prohibitions on discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people in public spaces and private.
The House first passed the law in 2019, but the then Republican-controlled Senate refused to accept it.
During the vote on Thursday, the House was once again the scene of clashes between Democrats (mostly in favor of the project) and Republicans (opposed).
First Republican MP Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for championing the QAnon conspiracy theory, called the transgender daughter of Congresswoman Marie Newman “her biological son.”
In the plenary vote, Newman responded and said the measure guaranteed the principles of freedom and equality. “I vote yes for Evie Newman, my daughter and the strongest and bravest person I know,” he said.
Although the Senate is currently under Democratic control, the chances of the bill passing are considered low. That’s because the house is currently split into 50 seats for Biden supporters and 50 for Republicans.
As in the case of a tie which gives the casting vote, it is the vice-president of the country, the democrat Kamala Harris, in practice the party has the majority in the House.
However, members of the minority have the power to obstruct the vote and prevent the passage of laws. In order to overcome this procedure, the votes of 60 senators are needed – that is, at least 10 Republicans must join Democrats in supporting the project, which is unlikely.
Senator Mitt Romney, a representative of the moderate wing of the Republican Party, said he would oppose the bill unless it adds a clause giving “strong protections to religious freedom.”
In a landmark decision in June, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay and transgender people from discrimination in the workplace and also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation. and gender identity.
In practice, the Chamber’s bill extends the court’s decision to areas other than workers. Business consumers would also be protected from discrimination, including restaurants, taxi services, gas stations and shelters, for example.
Currently, only 22 states and the District of Columbia (home to the capital, Washington) prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 83% of Americans support laws that protect the LGBT community.
Upon taking office, Biden urged Democrat-controlled Congress to “quickly approve” the bill, calling it “not critical in ensuring that the United States upholds our core values of equality.”
In opposition to Donald Trump’s administration, Biden also overturned a controversial decision by his predecessor and allowed transgender people to return to serve in the country’s armed forces.
Also on Thursday, the Senate opened a confirmation hearing for Rachel Levine, appointed by Biden as deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If approved, she will be the first transgender federal employee confirmed by the House.
During the session, however, Levine was attacked by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The Republican began his questioning by saying: “Genital mutilation has been almost universally condemned”. Then she asked if she supported sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy for minors.
Levine replied that the subject is very complex and nuanced. “If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Health, I look forward to working with you and discussing the details of standards of care for trans medicine,” she said.