The Equality Act heads to the House this week, where members will likely vote in favor of passing it. Read on to learn what it means for same-sex couples and other LGBTQ Americans.
Here’s What the Equality Act Means for Same-Sex Couples & Other LGBTQ Americans
The Equality Act is up for vote this week in the House of Representatives. Once they vote to pass it (and based on the bill’s prior history, they will), it just has to clear through the Senate before landing on President Biden’s desk. As Biden already promised to sign it, the only real hurdle is the Senate. We’ll discuss that a bit more in a moment. First, let’s look at what the Equality Act actually means for same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights.
Summary of H.R 5. (AKA The Equality Act)
The Equality Act, known officially as H.R.5, “prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system.”
In other words, the bill adds LGBTQ Americans to the list of American citizens protected from discrimination and/or segregation. Consider it a sort of update or continuation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. According to the H.R.5. summary,
The bill expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services.
It also prohibits citizens from “being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.”
LGBTQ Americans want “Equal Rights,” not “More Rights”
Despite what some members of the alt-right believe, LGBTQ people aren’t asking for “special rights.” They just want the same rights that non-LGBTQ people enjoy every day without so much as a second thought.
For example, a heterosexual couple planning a wedding never has to factor in the question of, “Do they serve opposite-sex couples?” when choosing a photographer, florist, or baker. Likewise, someone who was born with female genitals and who also identifies as a woman never has to worry that she’ll be barred from using a woman’s bathroom.
On the other hand, same-sex couples weren’t even allowed to legally wed in all states until Obergefell passed in 2015. Since then, they’ve faced countless court battles over things as seemingly simple as a cake, a picture and a bouquet. Transgender Americans are turned away from bathrooms, housing accommodations, team sports, and even health care clinics.
Most gruesome of all, LGBTQ people face constant threats to their very existence. At least 32 transgender citizens were murdered in 2020, and hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer citizens reached a 27-year high under the Trump administration.
Equality Act Has One More Major Hurdle to Leap after House
While the House is HIGHLY likely to pass the Equality Act, it could face trouble in the Senate. Although Democrats technically control the Senate by a single vote (that of Vice President Harris), the bill needs 60 votes total to pass. That means every single Democrat plus 10 Republicans need to vote “yes.” So far, only two have voiced support for the bill: Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).
We also can’t even count on every Democrat to get on board. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is likely to vote against it. Manchin is a “DINO,” or a “Democrat Only in Name,” meaning that while he ran on the Democrat ticket, he’s basically a Republican when it comes to everything from LGBTQ rights to getting stimulus money in the hands of starving Americans.
If the bill does pass through the Senate, however, it’s all but a done deal. President Biden promised to sign it once it hits his desk. We’ll keep you updated on its progress.
What do you think about the Equality Act? Do you feel it will strengthen same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights? Share below.