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House to Vote on Legal LGBTQ Safeguards02/25 06:19


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Democratic-led House is poised to pass a bill that 
would enshrine LGBTQ protections in the nation's labor and civil rights laws, a 
top priority of President Joe Biden, though the legislation faces an uphill 
battle in the Senate.

   The Equality Act amends existing civil rights law to explicitly include 
sexual orientation and gender identification as protected characteristics. The 
protections would extend to employment, housing, loan applications, education, 
public accommodations and other areas. Supporters say the law before the House 
on Thursday is long overdue and would ensure that every person is treated 
equally under the law.

   "In the absence of federal civil rights protection, there are members of the 
LGBTQ community who are fair game in the eyes of the law to be targeted, based 
on sexual orientation," said House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem 
Jeffries, D-N.Y. "That is not America."

   Republicans broadly oppose the legislation, echoing concerns from religious 
groups and social conservatives who worry the bill would force people to take 
actions that contradict their religious beliefs. They warn that faith-based 
adoption agencies seeking to place children with a married mother and father 
could be forced to close, or that private schools would have to hire staff 
whose conduct violates tenets of the school's faith.

   "The bill may have equality in the title, but it certainly does not serve 
all Americans," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. "It is a vehicle for serious, 
harmful consequences."

   The House passed the Equality Act in the last Congress with unanimous 
Democratic support and the backing of eight Republicans, but Donald Trump's 
White House opposed the measure and it was not considered in the Senate, where 
60 votes will be needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Democrats are trying to 
revive it now that they have control of Congress and the White House, but 
passage appears unlikely in the evenly divided Senate.

   The Supreme Court provided the LGBTQ community with a resounding victory 
last year in a 6-3 ruling that said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to 
LGBTQ workers when it comes to barring discrimination on the basis of sex. 
Civil rights groups have encouraged Congress to follow up that decision and 
ensure that anti-bias protections addressing such areas as housing, public 
accommodations and public services are applied in all 50 states.

   Biden made clear his support for the Equality Act in the lead-up to last 
year's election, saying it would be one of his first priorities.

   Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon said her home state of Pennsylvania was one 
of 30 that doesn't have legal protections for LGBTQ people. She said the 
Equality Act is needed to end "the patchwork of state laws" around gay rights 
and create "uniform nationwide protection."

   "It's been personal since my baby sister came out to me almost 40 years 
ago," Scanlon said. "For many people all across this country and across this 
House, that is when the fight hits home."

   Leaders at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote lawmakers this week 
to say they had grave concerns about the bill. Among the concerns the five 
bishops raised is that the bill would expand the government's definition of 
public places, forcing church halls and equivalent facilities to host functions 
that violate their beliefs, which could lead to closing their doors to the 
broader community.

   Some of the nation's largest corporations are part of a coalition in support 
of the legislation, including Apple Inc., AT&T, Chevron and 3M Co., just to 
name a few of the hundreds of companies that have endorsed it.

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