Nancy Pelosi has vowed to pass the Equality Act law, banning anti-LGBT discrimination across the US, in her first speech after being elected as speaker of the House of Representatives.
As a record number of openly lesbian, gay and bisexual lawmakers were sworn in on Thursday (January 3), the Democratic leader told Congress, “We will make America fairer by passing the Equality Act to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community,” according to the Washington Blade.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin welcomed the announcement, saying: “Now is the time to move equality forward by advancing the Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans are able to go to go to work, raise their families, and live their lives free from discrimination.
“Far too many LGBTQ people face unfair and unjust discrimination each and every day.”
— HRC president Chad Griffin
“We are thankful for Speaker Pelosi reaffirming her commitment to advance this critically important legislation and seize this historic moment to make full federal LGBTQ equality a reality,” he added.
There are currently no federal-level protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the US.
This means that it is legal to fire people for being gay in dozens of states due to uneven state-level protect
The Equality Act bill faces a smooth path in the House, where the Democrats have a majority, but may struggle to get through the Republican-controlled Senate.
Republican lawmakers have blocked both the Equality Act and its predecessor, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), since the bill was first put forward in 1994, and its two Republican co-sponsors in the House have left Congress.
Pelosi, who took up the position of speaker for the second time after serving between 2007 and 2011, used her speech to focus on the work of former President George H.W. Bush, who died in November, to create bipartisan support for bills which helped minorities.
Calling Bush “a beloved president,” Pelosi said that “today, I single out one of his great achievements—working with both Democrats and Republicans to write the Americans With Disabilities Act into the laws of our land.”
The Democrats won back the House in November’s midterm election, taking 40 seats which will be largely occupied by queer lawmakers and allies.
Newly elected LGBT+ Democrats Angie Craig (MN-2), Sharice Davids (KS-3), Katie Hill (CA-25) and Chris Pappas (NH-1) were sworn in, alongside re-elected incumbents Mark Takano (CA-41), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) and David Cicilline (RI-1).
And in the Senate, Arizona lawmaker Kyrsten Sinema became the first openly bisexual senator and second ever out LGBT+ senator, joining re-elected Wisconsin representative Tammy Baldwin.
Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, voiced her delight at the Democrats taking back the House.
“It is a welcome relief that fair-minded, pro-equality lawmakers have returned to the majority in the US House, and now it’s time for them to roll up their sleeves and get to work for all marginalised communities, including LGBTQ Americans,” she said.
“As the Trump administration continues to rollback equality in an effort to erase LGBTQ Americans from the nation, we need allies like Speaker Pelosi fighting for us in Congress.”