House passes sweeping anti-discrimination bill to expand protections of LGBT people

/ CBS/AP

Democrats in the House have approved a sweeping anti-discrimination bill that would extend civil rights protections to LGBT people by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The measure passed a vote of 236 yeas to 173 nays with eight Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill.

Called the Equality Act, the legislation updates existing federal nondiscrimination laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act, to confirm that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is unlawful discrimination based on sex. It would extend protections to employment, housing, loan applications, education, public accommodations and other areas.

The bill is a top priority of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said it will bring the nation "closer to equal liberty and justice for all." Co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, said the "LGBT community has waited nearly 250 years" for such legislation to pass.

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"Equal treatment under the law and a commitment to fairness and equality are founding values of our country. Discrimination of any kind is wrong and no one should ever be treated as less than equal because of who they are or who they love," said
Cicilline, who called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bill to the floor as soon as possible.

Many of the 2020 Democratic contenders also came out in support of the legislation including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris as well as Julian Castro. The candidates all implored their Republican colleagues to seriously consider the legislation.

The fight for full LGBTQ+ equality is far from over. But I’m glad to see the House passed the Equality Act today to ban discrimination, protect transgender rights, and resist the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back our progress. https://t.co/VzH481kk4s

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 17, 2019

Too often, LGBTQ individuals are still discriminated against in housing, employment, education, and other services. The #EqualityAct will make sure all people are protected from discrimination. @senatemajldr should put this bill on the Senate floor for a vote immediately.

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) May 17, 2019

But most Republicans voted against the bill on Friday, calling it another example of government overreach. Many spoke out during the debate.

A similar bill in the Senate faces long odds in the Republican-controlled chamber, something Lamda Legal, a legal advocacy group that works to protect the rights of the LGBT community, knows fully well.

"We know the Equality Act faces an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate. It shouldn't. LGBT Americans continue to face appalling, unjust discrimination in many aspects of their everyday lives. We know this from the thousands of calls Lambda Legal's Help Desk gets each year from all corners of our country. Specifically, we know that workplace discrimination is one of the most frequent problems that LGBT people face. Workplace equality has been a top priority for Lambda Legal since our founding nearly 50 years ago, and remains one today," said Lambda Legal Interim CEO Richard Burns.

"We call on the Senate to give the Equality Act the full, fair and comprehensive consideration it deserves," Burns added.

President Donald Trump, who reportedly opposes the bill, is widely expected to veto the legislation if it ever reaches his desk.

Emily Tillett and Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

First published on May 17, 2019 / 1:24 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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