By BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The House on Thursday passed the Equality Act, a top agenda item for President Joe Biden that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ Americans in a 224-206 vote.
Three Republicans voted with all Democrats on the measure, which the House also passed two years ago but languished in the then-GOP-controlled Senate. In 2019, eight House Republicans supported the bill.
The measure would extend the protections of the Civil Rights Act to LGBTQ Americans to block discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and John Katko, R-N.Y., voted with Democrats in support of the proposal on Thursday.
The vote followed two days of emotional and — at times — personal debate in the House between Democrats and Republicans, with some lawmakers speaking from their own life experiences on the floor.
“None of us should be evicted, fired or denied accommodations and services simply because of who we are and whom we love,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., who is one of the first openly gay Black men to serve in Congress.
Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., who spoke on the House floor on Monday in support of her transgender daughter, came under attack from Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a conservative who told Newman on Twitter that “your biological son does NOT belong in my daughters’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams,” and unsuccessfully tried to delay Thursday’s vote by forcing the House to vote twice on a dilatory motion to adjourn.
Newman, whose Washington office is across the hall from Greene’s, put up a transgender flag outside her door. Greene, in response, put up a poster that read: “There are TWO genders: Male & Female – Trust the Science!”
Republicans opposing the bill cited concerns that it would infringe on their religious beliefs and irrevocably impact women’s sports across the country.
“When men or women claim to be able to choose their own sexual identity, they are making a statement that God did not know what he was doing when he made them,” said Rep. Greg Stuebe, R-Fla. “You are going to singlehandedly destroy women’s sports in the name of equality, how ironic.”
Democrats and LGBTQ advocacy groups condemned the rhetoric from Greene and other Republicans in opposition to the bill.
“Their attacks on trans people and the transgender community are just mean, mean,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said of the “despicable comments.”
Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, called the comments “dangerous and transphobic.”
“These comments actually create additional stigma against communities that need to be protected,” he said.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 44 transgender or gender non-conforming Americans were killed last year, the highest tally the organization has ever recorded.
“(The attacks are) not based on fact, they’re based on fear,” he said.
The Equality Act will need to garner the support of 60 senators to get to Biden’s desk for his signature, which would require the support of at least 10 Republicans, assuming all Democrats back the package.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a critical swing vote who cosponsored the legislation in 2020, told the Washington Blade this week that she would not do so this year, pointing to unspecified changes she requested that were not made. She did not say what changes she had sought.
“Sen. Collins supports ensuring fairness and equal treatment of all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and she is considering all possible options to do so, including introducing her own bill,” Collins’ spokeswoman Annie Clarke told the Washington Blade.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the measure, but has not yet scheduled a meeting to do so.
ABC News’ Trish Turner contributed to this report.
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