WASHINGTON – The House voted 224-26 Thursday on legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, an expansive effort that has spurred fierce opposition among conservatives for religious freedom and sparked a new round of partisan struggles. in Congress.
The measure, known as the Equality Act, marks an important part of what Democrats call their equality agenda, following previous laws that treated attacks on gays as hate crimes and allowed gays to openly serve in the military. The Equality Act would amend the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, and other characteristics, to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“It is necessary because there is discrimination against people in the LGBTQ community,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., California) said Thursday. “It breaks my heart that it takes,” he said, choking off a press conference.
The White House supports the legislation but its fate in the Senate is uncertain. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., NY) declined Thursday to say when he would schedule a vote on the measure.
Only three Republicans joined Democrats in support of the bill. Many Republican lawmakers opposed the legislation both on grounds of religious freedom and by legally placing gender identity on par with the sex assigned at birth.
At a press conference with the Capitol as a backdrop and then on the House floor, Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus denounced the legislation, saying it would discriminate against certain adoption agencies that do not allow parental adoptions. same-sex, undermining women. sports, and prevent health care providers from refusing to perform abortions based on their religious beliefs.
“As someone who enjoyed playing sports and coaching in high school for many years, imagining the harm these policies will do to women and girls is heartbreaking,” said Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R., Missouri), citing the current dispute. in Connecticut on the state’s inclusive transgender policy in school sports.
“One of the areas that this will affect is faith-based adoption agencies,” said Rep. Mary Miller (R., Ill.). “They will be forced to abandon their beliefs or to close down.”
Democrats say gay and transgender people face discrimination when trying to obtain basic services or access facilities such as senior centers or restaurants, and that discrimination manifests itself in lower rates of home ownership, greater difficulty in renting a home, and greater number of homeless people. They say that arguments about the protection of religious freedom are a fig leaf that covers harmful practices.
“Every scoundrel in American history has tried to disguise their opposition to other people’s civil rights in religious guise,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D., Maryland).
“Their real argument, the only honest argument, is that they believe that LGBT people are morally inferior and that we should be allowed to fire,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D., NY), New York’s first openly gay congressman.
Republicans have criticized a provision in the law that would prohibit the use of the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act of 1993 as a defense against discrimination claims. House lawmakers have urged Senate Republicans to prevent the blanket measure from becoming law, but declined to say whether they would support any modified version of the legislation to protect gay or transgender people from discrimination.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that the 1964 civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination also prohibited employers from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Equality Act would make the court’s findings on those protections an explicit part of the law.
The political struggle has taken a personal turn within Congress. After Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Georgia) tried Wednesday to block the vote on the Equality Act, Representative Marie Newman (D., Illinois), who has a transgender daughter, hung a transgender rights flag on the hallway in front of Mrs. Greene’s office.
“The symbolism was just putting the flag there so that she had to see our community every day,” Newman said on CNN.
Ms. Greene, who was ousted from her committees by Democrats earlier this year for her past acceptance of conspiracy theories, fought back by posting a sign outside her own door that read “There are TWO genders: MALE AND FEMALE” . She posted a video of herself placing the poster in front of Ms. Newman’s flag.
“Do you know what he did first?” Ms. Greene said when asked if she was concerned that the way she voiced her opinion contributed to a toxic mood in Congress. “She did that first, so it’s not that I created anything toxic. She did that first. “
Across the Rotunda, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) Also got into the fight for transgender issues. At a hearing on the nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine, nominated for Assistant Secretary for Health, Mr. Paul asked her if she supported hormone therapy or sex reassignment therapy in minors with gender dysphoria, and said: “We should to be outraged that someone is talking to a three-year-old about changing sex. “
Dr. Levine, who is a transgender woman, responded that a variety of issues should be considered when dealing with minors.
“Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with solid research and standards of care that have been developed,” she said.
—Stephanie Armor contributed to this article.
Write to Siobhan Hughes at [email protected]
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