HOUSTON – The U.S. House has passed sweeping legislation to ban discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Equality Act would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to provide protection for LGBTQ individuals. If approved by the Senate and signed by President Biden, it would be the most sweeping federal LGBTQ Civil Rights Bill to ever become law.
The LGTBQ community has been down this road before. The same act passed the Democratic-controlled House in 2019 but stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats now have control of both chambers. Local supporters of the measure say this time feels different.
“There’s just a lot more optimism. The dialogue, the conversation, we know is incredibly positive to push things forward,” said Tammi Wallace, co-Founder, president and CEO of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
While those who oppose the measure say it undermines religious freedoms, proponents here at home argue that it comes down to respect and dignity.
“We want to be able to live our lives with respect and dignity like everybody else. More rights for us does not necessarily mean less rights for others,” said Austin Ruiz, the Montrose Center, communications and marketing manager.
Those advocating for change say while the odds in the Senate look more favorable this time, giving them a certain sense of hope moving forward, this does not mean the fight for equality is over.
“The best thing you can do is make yourself heard when it comes to your Civil Rights. We’ve got a big battle ahead but this is a huge milestone for sure,” said Anthony Ramirez, pride Houston, communications co-Director.
The ball is now in the Senate’s court where its fate is unclear. The bill needs 60 votes to avoid a filibuster.