Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline was among the Democrats at a press conference last week calling for a renewed push for federal LGBT protections.

Cicilline, who is openly gay, is the lead sponsor of the Equality Act, which seeks to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in seven key areas, including credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service and public accommodations, by effectively expanding the Civil Rights Act, originally approved in 1964.

The proposal has not advanced since its introduction last year. Cicilline said that that lack of action has created an opportunity for states to act.

“As we all know, nature abhors vacuums,” he said. “And so, in recent weeks, we've seen state lawmakers who have rushed to fill this vacuum with new laws that legalize discrimination against the LGBT community.”

Cicilline said that more than 200 bills targeting the LGBT community had been filed in 34 states this legislative session.

“They range from allowing religion to be used as an excuse for discrimination to laws denying transgender individuals to use the facilities consistent with their gender identity,” he said.

Cicilline and other Democrats at the press conference, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, announced that a letter calling on the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on the Equality Act was signed by 116 lawmakers.

Representative Robert Dold of Illinois is the sole Republican to co-sponsor the Equality Act.