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House passes bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

Representative Mark Takano, a Democrat of California, left, is greeted by Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, as they and other advocates for LGBTQ rights rallied before a vote in the House on the "Equality Act of 2019." J. Scott Applewhite/Associate Press/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House passed sweeping legislation Friday to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity after an emotional debate that underscored the divide between the two parties.

Democrats cast the decades-in-the-making move to change the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a historic step to extend protections to LGBTQ Americans, with several gay and bisexual lawmakers emphasizing the need for the bill called the Equality Act.

Republicans warned of the threat to religious freedom and argued that the measure could undermine women’s rights, with transgender women taking spots on women’s sports teams and getting athletics scholarships over of cisgendered women.


The bill would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, jury service, and federal financing, protecting people from being fired or harassed for their sexuality or gender identity.

Democrats cheered and applauded as the bill passed 236-173, with eight Republicans breaking ranks and joining all Democrats in backing the measure. It is unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate, and the White House has signaled that President Trump would veto the measure if it ever reached his desk.

The Trump administration has taken several steps to roll back or limit rights for LGBTQ people, most notably Trump’s broad restriction on transgender people serving in the military.

Despite a sea change in the past decade in public opinion regarding gay rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage nationally, 30 states have no laws protecting people and proponents argued that the measure would create a national standard.