New Congress, new rules. When the 116th Congress met for the first time last week, they also implemented new rules designed to govern this year’s congressional session. In a historic first, the new rules include an explicit ban on employment discrimination against LGBTQ staffers and job seekers. The new rules were adopted last week as a Democratic majority was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives.
Employment discrimination against LGBTQ people is illegal under some local and state laws, including in Washington D.C., but federal law is generally silent on the matter. More than half of all Americans are not protected by anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination laws. Many federal courts have ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the Supreme Court is widely expected to take up that question this term. In the meantime, however, Congressional staffers and job applicants will be protected under the House’s new rules.
The new rule was put forth by Rhode Island’s 1st District Rep. David N. Cicilline (D), who said in a statement that “protecting the rights of LGBT employees is just the right thing to do.” The new rules have received widespread praise. “This is an historic moment for our country,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy in a written statement. “For the first time ever, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity will be banned in the House of Representatives. This action to protect LGBTQ congressional employees from discrimination is the result of millions of Equality Voters going to the polls in November to ensure their voices were heard and demanding a Congress that looks like America.”
The new Congressional rules also permit wearing religious headwear during Congressional sessions, prohibit sitting Congresspeople from serving in paid positions on corporate boards, and requires annual ethics training.