HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The Equality Act passed in the House of Representatives Thursday, making the Senate the final hurdle for what would be historic LGBTQ+ legislation.
The Equality Act is a proposed amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which would make discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity illegal.
This is not the first time the House voted to send the bill to the Senate. In 2019, they voted in favor of the bill, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to bring it to a vote on the Senate floor.
In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that employers could not discriminate against their employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We knew that would leave the door open to possibly further legislation protecting our rights in other areas, but we didn’t know it would happen so fast,” said Gabriel Sanchez, a spokesperson for the South Texas Equality Project (STEP).
Sanchez said the passing of the bill in the House shows just how far America has progressed.
“This has been a fight decades in the making,” said Sanchez.
A fight to not be discriminated against for who you are, or who you love. According to Sanchez, a luxury member of the LGBTQ+ community has not had in the past.
“The idea that I deserve basic human rights and protections from the discrimination I think is a less controversial statement than it was in let’s say the 1980s,” they said.
The bill would still need to pass a vote in the Senate in order to be added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Senate is currently split in a 50-50 tie, with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tie-breaking vote for Democrats.
However, Democrats will need 10 Senate Republicans to vote with them on the bill in order to be able to break a filibuster attempt, which requires 60 votes to stop.
Even though only three Republicans in the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Equality Act, Sanchez told KVEO that they are “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome.
Regardless of whether the bill passes or not, Sanchez said it’s a reminder of the struggles the community still faces.
“This is a good reminder for people, our allies, and the people who are outside the LGBTQ+ to know that in many ways our basic rights as citizens of the United States are still not fully protected by law,” said Sanchez.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not said when he will bring the bill to a vote.