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House passes Equality Act
by Matt Simonette

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act 236-173 in a May 17 vote.

The legislation, which is H.R. 5 and was introduced by U.S. Reps. David Cicilline ( D-RI ) and Brian Fitzpatrick ( R-PA ), codifies protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity within existing non-discrimination frameworks, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Cicilline first introduced a version of the Equality Act in 2015. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had long promised to introduce the Equality Act this session.

Among the Illinois House delegation, votes were split along party lines, with all Democratic members voting in favor of H.B. 5. Among those affirmative votes was 3rd District Rep. Dan Lipinski, who has frequently opposed pro-LGBT legislation and is facing aggressive opposition from his rival in the last Democratic primary, Marie Newman, who has already made known that she's running again.

Other affirmative votes included U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush ( 1st ), Robin Kelly ( 2nd ), Jesus "Chuy" Garcia ( 4th ), Mike Quigley ( 5th ), Sean Casten ( 6th ), Danny Davis ( 7th ), Raja Krishnamoorthi ( 8th ), Jan Schakowsky ( 9th ), Brad Schneider ( 10th ), Bill Foster ( 11th ), Lauren Underwood ( 14th ) and Cheri Bustos ( 17th ).

Republican "No" votes included U.S Reps. Mike Bost ( 12th ), Rodney Davis ( 13th ), John Shimkus ( 15th ) and Adam Kinzinger (16th). One other Republican, Rep. Darin LaHood ( 18th ), did not vote.

Politicians and advocates praised the House vote, but acknowledged the opposition the Equality Act is expected to face in the Republican-controlled Senate.

"Today, on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, House Democrats passed the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ+ Americans are protected by the same federal civil rights laws that protect their straight and cisgender counterparts," said Quigley in a May 17 statement. " ... I am committed to working with my colleagues to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring this critical legislation to the floor of the Senate for a vote. And I will never stop fighting for LGBTQ+ Americans."

Lambda Legal Interim CEO Richard Burns said in a statement that, "We call on the Senate to give the Equality Act the full, fair and comprehensive consideration it deserves. The Equality Act addresses the inadequate patchwork of protections that vary from state to state with a broad federal statute protecting LGBTQ people across the country and throughout their daily lives."

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