HISTORIC: U.S. House of Representatives Passes the Equality Act

by Sarah McBride

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.

HRC hailed the historic passage of the Equality Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, 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.

“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.

Today’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’s Business 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:

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

To learn more about the Equality Act, visit www.hrc.org/EqualityAct.