On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill banning the discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In a landmark vote, nearly as significant as the 2010 Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriages, LGBTQ+ people evicted, fired or denied service because of their gender identity or sexual orientation are closer to having legal recourse protecting their rights.

The Equality Act is a formal amendment to the Civil Rights Act, to provide members of the LGBTQ+ community protection from discrimination under federal law. More than half of states in the U.S. offer no legal protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community who face discriminate, but Thursday’s bill would enshrine such protections nationally. The final vote was 244-206 with three Republicans joining the unanimous House Democrats.

Notable dissenters include Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), a known transphobe, who during the act’s hearing harassed Rep. Marie Newman (D-Illinois) for having a transgender daughter.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) voted against the bill, worried that the religious freedom to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community was in danger. “This really seems like an onslaught against freedom of religion,” said McCarthy, reflecting his voting base in California’s 23rd district who voted overwhelmingly for former President Donald Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

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“When you tell people that in a majority of states in this country, you can either be kicked out of your apartment, fired from your job, or denied service in a restaurant because you’re gay or in the LGBTQ community, people think that can’t be true,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), a co-sponsor of the Equality Act.

The House vote attracted support from LGBTQ+ activist groups across the country. Sarah Kate Ellis, President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), said in a statement after the House vote, “It is time to move together to ensure LGBTQ people have the chance to belong, to participate and to succeed in all areas of American life.”

The bill is unlikely to reach the required 60-vote threshold to pass in the Senate in its current form, but a further amended version of the bill maintaining essential LGBTQ+ protections could potentially become federal law later this year.

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