House Passes Legislation Protecting LGBTQ+ Rights


The New York Times

Representative David Cicilline advocating for the Equality Act.

On February 25, 2021, the House passed the Equality Act, a bill that prohibits discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation or sexual identity that is applicable in employment, education, jury service, federal funding, housing, and public accommodations. The legislation explains, “Discrimination can occur on the basis of the sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition of an individual, as well as because of sex-based stereotypes. Each of these factors alone can serve as the basis for discrimination, and each is a form of sex discrimination.” 

The act was presented in the House on February 18, 2021, by Democratic Representative David N. Cicilline from Rhode Island, who is openly gay. He stated, “In most states, LGBTQ people can be discriminated against because of who they are, or who they love.” He continues, “It is past time for that to change.”

The legislation was passed 224 to 206 with very few Republicans supporting the bill. As of now, the legislation has a very low chance of receiving enough support from Republicans in the Senate. The legislation needs 60 votes in the Senate, and it seems unlikely that it will advance to the upper chamber. However, the bill has complete support from the White House. President Biden has already said that passing the Equality Act would be one of his priorities in his first 100 days as president.

In a statement, President Biden said, “Full equality has been denied to LGBTQ+ Americans and their families for far too long. The Equality Act provides long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity… codifying the courage and resilience of the LGBTQ+ movement into enduring law.”

The bill reforms the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 by adding protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity. Cicilline has pushed for this bill every year since 2015. In 2019, the act passed in the House, but a large number of Republicans in the Senate blocked the bill from advancing. 

Opponents of the bill believe that it will infringe on First Amendment rights, specifically free speech and religious liberty. Republican Representative Chip Roy of Texas said, “This is a government using its power to tell us to bow down to the will of a cultural elite in this town who want to tell us what we’re supposed to believe. We’re not going to do that.”

Other opponents believe that the bill will endanger women’s rights. Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio shared a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Twitter. The article writes, “The Equality Act would threaten the existence of women’s prisons, public-school girls’ locker rooms, and women’s and girls’ sports teams. It would limit freedom of speech, freedom of association, accurate data collection, and scientific inquiry. It would threaten the rights of physicians who doubt the wisdom of performing life-changing, reproduction-limiting procedures, and parents who seek to protect their minor children from such treatment.”

The impact of the Equality Act has not only affected politicians and representatives, but also students at Westridge. Students have been taking note of legislation around LGBTQ+ rights. 

Caroline M. ’26, co-head of the Middle School LGBTQ+ Club, commented, “I think that this bill is not going to lie a game changer. I also think that once it becomes part of a law, not to discriminate against people based on something they can’t control, the US will become more tolerant. It gives me hope that other countries that are less accepting will follow in our footsteps. It has the potential for greatness. But also it could backfire. How will they enforce this law? Will people even notice that it exists? Will people continue to abuse people even though they are under the protection of the law? Will the police even try to enforce this law with all of this police brutality, will they even try? This act is still new, and we will have to wait and see the impact on the world.”

We all know that we have a long way to go to create a just world for all people, and while legislation is a welcome step forward, we have much work to do to create the kind of world that honors each person for who they are and affords the same opportunities to everyone.

— Dr. Lisa Carruthers

Sarah Simon, Human Development Coordinator, said, “The safety and protection the Equality Act offers is necessary for survival, but I am not so sure it will change the hearts and minds of people who oppose it to begin with. In my opinion, that work is done through relationship building, conflict resolution practices, and compassionate consistency. Learning of this nature happens when people are open to it and willing to learn it can’t be forced. Overall, I think the Equality Act is a great step in the right direction, but in many ways, the work has only just begun.”

Frankie W. ’26, co-head of the Middle School LGBTQ+ Club said, “I really think that this bill should pass. It will really help with equality for all based on something they can’t control. It’s pretty exciting that this is happening now. I do think that it’s kind of late for this stuff.”

Dr. Lisa Carruthers, Director of Counseling and Student Support, explained, “The legislation makes me hopeful, because in a legal sense, we are moving in the right direction. Laws are necessary because they provide legal protection, but laws in and of themselves don’t change the hearts of people who hold views that are discriminatory, homophobic, racist, etc. We all know that we have a long way to go to create a just world for all people, and while legislation is a welcome step forward, we have much work to do to create the kind of world that honors each person for who they are and affords the same opportunities to everyone.”


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