The U.S. House of Representatives on
Thursday approved the Equality Act.
The legislation seeks to add sexual
orientation and gender identity to existing civil rights law.
According to various outlets, the bill
passed with a 224-203 vote. Three Republicans crossed the aisle to
vote with united Democrats.
The lead sponsors of the legislation,
Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline, who is openly gay, and
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, spoke at a press conference with other
Democrats before the floor vote.
Cicilline said that he hopes the bill
will become law in honor of the late Representative John Lewis, who
strongly favored passage.
Merkley said that LGBT Americans are
“not free” because “they do not share fully and equally in our
national life, they are not treated as individuals equal in dignity
and promise to all others.”
“It is way past time we change that,”
Merkley said. “Way past time we pass a national Equality Act.”
Cicilline also spoke on the House
floor, where he called for passage of the bill.
“The LGBTQ community has waited long
enough,” he said. “The time has come to extend the blessings of
liberty and equality to all Americans, regardless of who they are or
who they love.”
Cicilline and Merkley first introduced
the legislation in 2015.
The Biden administration has called the
Equality Act a priority. But passage in the Senate, where Democrats
must remain united and round up 10 GOP votes to reach the finish
line, remains unclear.