The House just voted by a slim margin to approve the Equality Act, 224 to 206. The breakdown looks pretty much exactly how you’d expect, which is that the Democrats voted for equality and the Republicans didn't.
The gist of the Equality Act is that it would add gender identity and sexual orientation to a list of already-protected classes, so you couldn’t be fired or expelled or evicted on those bases. Seems like a good idea, but of course Republicans are jumping on the opportunity to pretend they care about a Culture War skirmish, and are flagging their opposition as if this sort of thing actually matters to them. (It is darkly hilarious to see conservative members of Congress act like they have ever given a shit about the sanctity of women’s sports.)
So now the Equality Act sails along to the Senate, where it’ll hopefully squeak through. There are no guarantees, but for now it’s ok to feel cautiously optimistic about its chances.
But you may also wish to prepare yourself for a particularly relentless onslaught of homophobia and transphobia. Not because Republicans really care about the issue, but because of the photo opportunities.
After Illinois Rep. Marie Newman put up a trans pride flag, her across-the-hall neighbor Marjorie Taylor Greene put up a sign saying "there are two genders, respect the science," a claim that is not actually supported by science. Greene previously tried to adjourn the House to stop today's vote, which sure is a fancy way of trying to get out of work.
This isn’t the first time the Equality Act’s been to this rodeo — it passed the House in 2019, and there were attempts to pass it going back to 2015. But this is the first time that Democrats have controlled both chambers and the presidency, which means its chances at passing have never been so strong. (The Equality Act’s predecessor, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, wallowed and died in the Democrat-controlled 110th Congress; but that was because ENDA was a shitty trans-exclusionary bill.)
For all the phlegm being spit over this bill, it’s pretty benign — unless you want to see people fired for being gay, in which case I wish you and your fellow assholes a very restless night.
Conservatives have weaponized the Equality Act’s provisions that protect trans people, claiming that it’ll let men wander into women’s locker rooms, and ho hum no it won’t. This tedious song will be very familiar to anyone who was there for marriage equality, or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, or adoption access, or a million other equal rights issues.
I vividly recall anti-gay groups putting out videos about how same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry. “Natural marriage isn’t bigotry, it’s biology,” these idiots claimed back in 2014, and they’ve just swapped “natural marriage” with “firing trans people.”
Democrats, on the other hand, have spoken passionately about the importance of protecting LGBTQ+ constituents. Discrimination against queer people causes increased health risks, financial problems, educational issues — the Equality Act addresses all that, and the objections to it are simply made up. Here’s Rep. Pramila Jayapal delivering a particularly nice speech:
As the proud mom of a trans kid, I'll fight for every LGBTQ+ person to explore and express the fullness of their gender without fear or risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Let's pass the Equality Act. pic.twitter.com/S2K192QP86
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) February 25, 2021
Anyway, after the bill passed, Republicans invoked an irritating procedural process to reconsider it, knowing that it would fail but it would also waste about 45 minutes to count another round of votes. Cool system of government we've got, works great.