On Friday, 173 members of Congress — all Republicans — voted against the Equality Act. The bill, which passed with support from eight Republicans and 228 Democrats, adds sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal non-discrimination laws.
Notably, 25 of the Republican members who voted no represent constituents who are already protected by state LGBTQ-inclusive state employment, housing, and public accommodation laws. None of those states have experienced the kinds of repercussions Equality Act opponents have warned might happen if protections were passed at the federal level.
That firsthand experience should have allayed any fears that the Equality Act would destroy women’s sports, as Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) predicted, or that they would cause “meticulous and intentional destruction of religion-freedom protections” and create mass “uncertainty, litigation, and harm to individuals and organizations,” as anti-LGBTQ Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) promised.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 20 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment matters, at places of public accommodations, and in housing decisions. These laws typically mirror protections against racial, sex, religious, and ethnic discrimination.
Every present representative from 10 of those states — Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont — backed the Equality Act. (Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, D.C.’s non-voting Democratic delegate, was also a co-sponsor.)
“I’m proud that my home state of Maine is among the [states that have] already enacted these protections,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) said. “For almost 15 years, Mainers have stood against bigotry to provide equal access to house, employment, and public establishment for our LGBTQ community. And guess what? The sky did not fall.”
Still, many lawmakers from the other 10 states whose constituents already have LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws governing them voted against giving the rest of the nation the same protections their constituents already enjoy.
The list includes:
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy
Jaime Herrera Beutler
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Rather than represent their constituents, these lawmakers voted against affording the LGBTQ people in their districts the ability to be protected when they travel to other states.
“We’re really lucky because we live in Wisconsin, the first state in the nation to pass a gay and lesbian civil rights bill back in 1982,” noted Rep. Mark Pocan (D), who is openly gay. “If we pass the Equality Act, people like [my husband] Phil and I can be free to love who we love, and we can live where we want to live, and work where we want to work without being fired or evicted simply because of who we are or who we love.”
Wisconsin’s law does not yet include nondiscrimination protections for gender identity.
The bill is unlikely to pass through Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) Senate, and the Trump administration opposes it. A similar bill proposed by Senate Democrats is also likely to face staunch opposition from Republicans.