The House is set to vote next week on the Equality Act which, if passed, would extend and create protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.
After obtaining a letter from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the Washington Blade reported yesterday that the bill would be coming to the floor next week, along with Biden’s proposed Covid-19 relief package. An aide for the Congressman later told the publication that the bill was likely to come to a vote on February 25th.
A previous version of the Equality Act passed in the House back in 2019, but was never brought to a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, even with Democrats now in control of both chambers, the bill could face a challenge in the Senate. Democrats would need all 50 of their Senators to vote for the bill in order for Vice-President Kamala Harris to cast the deciding vote.
However, as Pink News reports, Joe Manchin (D-WV) has opposed such legislation in the past; in 2019, he issued a statement saying, “I am not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidelines to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it, particularly with respect to students transitioning between genders in public schools.”
In a statement made to the Washington Blade, a spokesman for Mitt Romney (R-UT) said that the Senator would not support the measure since religious protections “are absent from this particular bill.”
Passage of the Equality Act would provide yet another measure of protection for the LGBTQ+. The Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County has already extended anti-discriminatory measures to include sexual identity and orientation. Additionally, President Joe Biden — who pledged to sign the Equality Act within his first 100 days in office — has already directed his executive branch agencies to enforce anti-discriminatory policies.
However, such protections are not automatically guaranteed. A court ruling could allow religious exemptions to the enforcement of anti-discriminatory policies. As the Advocate reports, passage of the Equality Act would make it more difficult for future court decisions, or presidents, to chip away at protections.