Should they reclaim a majority in the House come November, Democrats will prioritize legislation that would extend federal anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community, minority leader Nancy Pelosi said recently.
The legislation, which Pelosi unveiled during a speech at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, would expand upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which currently covers race, religion, gender, and national origin — to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. If passed, the bill would outlaw discrimination against LGBT Americans seeking loans, applying for jobs, ordering in a restaurant, or seeking to serve on a jury.
The bill, which has 198 co-sponsors, including two Republican House members, still lacks Republican support in the Senate. It was initially introduced in 2015, but died in Committee before being reintroduced in 2017.
“This is a very simple proposition,” Representative David Cicilline(D., R.I.), the bill’s lead sponsor, told the Associated Press.
“We have a long history in our country of prohibiting discrimination and promoting equality. It’s the founding principle of our country, and I believe the vast majority of people in our country think discrimination is wrong. In many ways Congress has to catch up to where the American people are.”
Senator Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) is optimistic about the bill’s prospects for passage but acknowledged that a prohibition in the bill against employers citing the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to refuse service to an LGBT person might detract from conservative support.
“This is what we need to accomplish. It is way past time to end discrimination across the board,” Merkley said. “I find it astounding that here we are in a situation where you can now take your marriage certificate from state to state, but if you travel with your partner, in one you’re treated as a citizen with full rights, and in the next, you’re treated as a second-class citizen.”
Pelosi has said recently that she will also prioritize comprehensive gun-control and anti-corruption legislation should she take the gavel after the midterms.