House Democrats voted unanimously Friday in favor of legislation that would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” as protected classes.
The bill, which passed 236–173 with the support of eight Republicans, would protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
Conservative critics of the legislation, however, argue that it would harm biological women by eliminating certain protections they currently enjoy, such as the right to compete against other biological women in sports. If signed into law, the Equality Act would require that public schools allow boys who identify as girls to compete in girls’ sports.
“People need to wake up. This radical bill is going to totally eliminate women’s and girls sports,” Representative Debbie Lesko (R., Ariz.) cautioned in an op-ed published Thursday.
A group of Republicans led by Representative Vicky Hartzler held a press conference Thursday to state their opposition to what they referred to as the “inequality act.”
“This bill hijacks the Civil Rights Act of 1964, erasing decades of progress for women,” Hartzler said of the bill.
She went on to lament the effect the bill could have on female athletes and women who rely on domestic-violence shelters and other “safe spaces” that have traditionally barred men.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler pushed back on the criticism that the legislation would adversely affect female athletes during an April hearing.
“Many states have sexual-orientation and gender-identity non-discrimination laws, and all of them still have women’s sports. Arguments about transgender athletes participating in sports in accordance with their gender identity having competitive advantages have not been borne out,” Nadler said.
The question of male participation in female sports has risen to national prominence in recent months as the examples of biological males dominating their female competition continue to mount. Most recently, in Connecticut, the state champion and runner up in the 55-meter dash were biological males who were in the process of transitioning to female. Connecticut is one of 17 states that currently allows transgender athletes to compete against the gender of their choosing absent any restrictions.