A nationwide LGBTQ civil rights law will be high atop the priority list if Democrats win back control of the House, according to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi reaffirmed her support for the long-gestating Equality Act during a Wednesday evening address at Harvard University. Less than a month before the midterms, the former House Speaker promised a Democratic-controlled legislature would push for a comprehensive bill banning “discrimination against LGBTQ people and women.”
If passed, the Equality Act would update the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That legislation is currently exclusive to categories like race, color, and religion.
First introduced to Congress in 2015, the Equality Act expands on the earlier Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which applied solely to the workplace. The legislation provides comprehensive protections in seven different categories, which also include credit, education, housing, and public accommodations.
Although the Equality Act was reintroduced in 2017, its passage is a no-go as long as conservatives control the House and Senate. The original version of the bill was cosponsored by just three Republican lawmakers.
In contrast, President Trump has pledged his support for a bill legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people in the name of faith.
But Pelosi believes those fortunes will change after the November midterms, in which Democrats are poised to close the 23-seat gap that gives Republicans control of the House of Representatives. Currently, the data analysis website FiveThirtyEight gives liberals an 84 percent chance of taking the House.
The Democratic standard-bearer says it’s not a matter of whether her party will win but by how much: “a wave or a tsunami.”
“If the election were today we would win the majority,” Pelosi told the crowd, citing the Democratic wave of enthusiasm amid “The Resistance.” She added: “I’ve never seen anything like the mobilization that is out there, the grassroots.”
A representative for 73-year-old politician confirmed the Equality Act is high on her 2019 agenda.
“In the House, the majority will signal a piece of legislation is a top priority by assigning it a bill number between 1 and 10,” spokesperson Drew Hammill told the Washington Blade. “Leader Pelosi has decided the Equality Act will get one of these priority bill numbers, indicating its importance to House Democrats.”
The Human Rights Campaign added that it would continue pressuring federal lawmakers to move forward with the bill, calling its passage “critical.”
“Discrimination is a real and persistent problem for far too many LGBTQ Americans, and more than 50 percent of LGBTQ Americans live in states that lack LGBTQ-inclusive statewide protections,” said Senior National Press Secretary Stephen Peters in a statement.
“It’s imperative that Congress end this patchwork of protections by passing the Equality Act,” he continued, saying it would cement “clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections” across the country.
Despite the fact that 30 states still lack comprehensive statewide nondiscrimination laws on the basis of both gender identity and sexual orientation, the Equality Act remains widely popular. A 2016 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that more than seven in 10 Americans are in favor of a fully inclusive LGBTQ civil rights bill.
In fact, many Americans think anti-LGBTQ discrimination is already illegal.
At yesterday’s event, Pelosi also pledged that a Democratic-controlled House would work to reform campaign finance laws, rebuild America’s infrastructure, prepare for the challenges of climate change, expand background checks on gun purchases, and block the president’s long-promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
In separate comments shared with Politico, the first female House speaker claimed she doesn’t see Democrats “voting for wall funding,”
“We have a responsibility to secure our borders,” Pelosi said in the Tuesday interview. “There are ways to do that that are consistent with civilization, humanitarianism, and who we are as a nation. We have to remove all doubt about that.”
The 2018 midterms will take place in 18 days.
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