Democratic lawmakers led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday announced they would introduce anti-discrimination legislation that would establish widespread equal rights protections for LGBTQ individuals.
However, political insiders say the bill could be doomed by the lack of Republican support.
Known as "The Equality Act," the legislation would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which already bars discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and nationality. The measure would expand those protections beyond the workplace. The bill would prohibit gender discrimination in retail shops, restaurants, health care, and social services, housing, applying for a loan, or participating in the jury selection process. The measure was first introduced three years ago.
The House bill has 198 co-sponsors, including one Republican. However, no Senate Republicans have officially backed it.
One of the biggest issues conservatives have with the Equality Act is a provision in the law that forbids any employer or retailer from citing their faith to withhold services from LGBT individuals, a right guaranteed in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993. The Equality Act would essentially bypass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and force religious business owners to violate their beliefs.
"The Equality Act would undermine the freedom to think and act according to our beliefs," Emilie Kao of the conservative Heritage Foundation told The Associated Press. Citing recent cases in the news, she said faith-based adoption agencies should be not be required to serve same-sex couples, and entrepreneurs such as bakers and florists should not be required to provide services for same-sex weddings.
The bill has almost unanimous Democratic support, meaning it should pass the House. In the Republican-controlled Senate, the bill's chances of being passed appear slim.
Mary Beth Waddell, a senior legislative assistant for the Family Research Council, told CBN News back in October of 2018 that the Equality Act is basically government-sanctioned discrimination against religious people.
"The current law in civil rights and the protected classes are inborn and unchangeable characteristics like race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sex, etc., and religion, which is expressly protected under the Constitution," Waddell said. "What the Equality Act does is it turns it on its head and allow the government to impose a belief system about sexual decisions and sexual behaviors on the nation."
Waddell also said the Family Research Council with "certainly" fight the bill if it comes up for a vote.