By a vote of 236-173, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination throughout daily life. This is the first time a chamber of Congress has approved a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill.
The crucially important, bipartisan legislation will finally provide clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the country in employment, housing, public spaces, education, jury services, credit and federal funding.
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said, “Today, Democrats reaffirmed our support for the equitable and fair treatment of LGBTQ people. Every LGBTQ person, regardless of where they live, deserves the right to earn a living, raise a family and live a life free from discrimination.”
Perez added, “Seven in ten Americans support protections for LGBTQ people, but President Trump is standing in the way. This administration has been ruthless in its efforts to undo the progress we’ve made toward LGBTQ equality. From access to health care to the ability to serve in uniform, this president and his administration have dragged us backwards when it comes to LGBTQ rights. The American people deserve better. But no matter what this administration throws at us, we know that if we speak loud enough, if we fight hard enough, we can bend the arc of history toward justice and equality for all.”
“This moment has been 45 years in the making,” said Mayor Annise Parker, LGBTQ Victory Institute President & CEO. “The LGBTQ community has come a long way since a non-discrimination law was first introduced in the U.S. House in 1974, and yet LGBTQ people can still be fired for their sexual orientation in 28 states – and 30 for their gender identity. All ten openly LGBTQ members of Congress banded together to share their lived experiences and pass this commonsense reform – and their advocacy was crucial to courting the votes it received today. America is beyond ready to enshrine LGBTQ equality in public life and now the U.S. Senate must step up!”
The two openly LGBTQ members of the U.S. Senate are Tammy Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema. The eight openly LGBTQ members of the U.S. Congress are David Cicilline, Angie Craig, Sharice Davids, Katie Hill, Sean Patrick Maloney, Chris Pappas, Mark Pocan and Mark Takano.
“Today’s historic vote is a major milestone for equality and sends a powerful and profound message to LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth, that the U.S. House has their backs,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “No one’s rights should depend on which side of a state or city line they live on, and today we took a giant step forward in our journey toward full equality. This historic victory would not have been possible without the millions of LGBTQ people and our allies who organized, mobilized and turned out to elect a pro-equality majority in 2018. Now, we will take our fight to the U.S. Senate and turn up the pressure on Leader McConnell to allow a vote on this crucial legislation. And we won’t slow down in working to turn out the 10 million eligible LGBTQ voters and our millions more allies to elect a pro-equality president in 2020 who will sign the Equality Act into law.”
Discrimination is a real and persistent problem for LGBTQ Americans. HRC polling has found that nearly two-thirds of self-identified LGBTQ Americans report experiencing discrimination. Currently, 50 percent of LGBTQ Americans live in the 30 states that still lack statewide legal non-discrimination protections, leaving their residents and visitors at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service because of who they are or whom they love. The Equality Act would finally guarantee existing civil rights laws apply to LGBTQ people by providing clear, consistent non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity across key areas of life, while expanding and enhancing protections for people of color, women and religious minorities.
Friday’s vote of 236-173 in the House included 8 Republicans joining 228 Democrats to vote in favor of the legislation.
The bipartisan Equality Act, first introduced in Congress in July 2015, is sponsored by Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the House and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the Senate. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) prioritized passage of the legislation, which now heads to the U.S. Senate.
In 2018, HRC made an historic commitment to elect a pro-equality Congress in the midterm election. A year prior, HRC launched HRC Rising, the largest grassroots expansion in the organization’s 38-year history. HRC endorsed more than 480 pro-equality candidates nationwide and deployed 150 staff to organize and mobilize voters in more than 70 congressional, targeted senate and key statewide races across 23 states during the 2018 elections. HRC helped register more than and recruited more than 4,200 volunteers, who clocked more than 30,000 volunteer hours. In the critical final four days of the campaign, HRC staff and volunteers in get-out-the-vote efforts alone knocked on more than 80,000 doors on behalf of our endorsed candidates.
The Equality Act was re-introduced in the new U.S. House in March with growing, unprecedented support. More than 200 major corporations have joined HRC’sBusiness Coalition for the Equality Act. Recent polling finds that a growing majority of Americans — including Republicans, Democrats and Independents — support LGBTQ non-discrimination protections and LGBTQ equality. In a historic move, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers announced their support for the Equality Act. A recent survey by PRRI found that nearly seven in 10 Americans support laws like the Equality Act. More than 500 statewide and national organizations have endorsed the legislation, including social justice, religious, medical and child welfare organizations.
In April, HRC held the Equality Act Month of Action. While Congress was in recess, HRC joined with partners in fourteen key states to host dozens of in-district grassroots events to build support for the legislation, including phone banks, lobbying training, door-to-door canvasses, and in-district meetings with members of Congress. On Thursday, the coalition to pass the Equality Act hand-delivered petitions signed by over 168,812 Americans to original sponsor Rep. David Cicilline urging Congress to the legislation.
As the legislation made its way through both the House Judiciary and Labor and Education Committees, HRC released several videos from members of Congress in support of the Equality Act, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representatives Bonnie Watson (D-NJ), John Lewis (D-GA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). HRC also launched the “Americans for the Equality Act” series. Filmed by award-winning directors Dustin Lance Black and Paris Barclay, the campaign featured prominent figures in entertainment, sports and beyond speaking about the need for the legislation like Sally Field and her son Sam Greisman, Shea Diamond, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, Adam Rippon, Dustin Lance Black, Justina Machado and Karamo Brown.
In addition to the “Americans for the Equality Act” series, HRC also released several resources detailing the urgent need for passage:
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement upon the House passage of the Equality Act: “Fifty years ago, a small, committed group of activists at the Stonewall Inn demanded an end to discrimination, and millions of LGBTQ Americans have joined their ranks since then. The House of Representatives affirmed today that discrimination is wrong and that we must uphold the fundamental American values of freedom and equality. This is a crucial step forward to ensure equal opportunity and dignity for all LGBTQ people in America. Speaker Pelosi, Congressman Cicilline, Chairs Nadler, Scott, McGovern, and Waters have been instrumental in achieving this vote, and we deeply appreciate their leadership. Now that the House has voted, it is time for the Senate to act.”
PFLAG National—the nation’s first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies—celebrated the historic passage of the Equality Act.
“PFLAGers across the country thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) for their leadership in introducing the Equality Act, and the many Representatives from across the country who today cast their historic votes in favor of equality, fairness, and safety,” said Brian K. Bond, former Obama White House official and now Executive Director of PFLAG National. “PFLAG families want for their LGBTQ+ loved ones the same things that all families want: job security, a home, a family, and unfettered access to healthcare and other crucial services. PFLAG families have been fighting for over four decades for these protections and equal rights as promised by the U.S. Constitution, and now they are ever closer to achieving that promise.”
The PFLAG National Board of Directors this week issued a unanimously passed resolution in support of the Equality Act, which has also been translated into Spanish. Additionally, hundreds of PFLAG chapter leaders from across the country endorsed the legislation, and have committed to working together in every zip code across the country until the Equality Act passes in the Senate and is signed into law by a President of the United States.
WATCH: HRC President Chad Griffin on introduction of the Equality Act
WATCH: Explainer — Why Do We Need the Equality Act?
WATCH: Fired for being transgender: Carter Brown’s story
WATCH: Civil Rights Leaders and Advocates Highlight Critical Need for the Equality Act