With midterm elections quickly approaching, House Democrats are making promises to the LGBTQ community.
Officials say they will prioritize anti-discrimination legislation that would establish widespread equal rights protections for LGBTQ individuals.
Minority leader Nancy Pelosi said she would introduce the "Equality Act" as one of her first orders of business.
The act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which already bars discrimination on the bases of race, color, sex, religion, and nationality. The Equality Act 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.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told The News Tribune the legislation will be given a low bill number, meaning it will be one of the first issues addressed by Congress if Democrats retake the House in November.
The House bill has 198 co-sponsors, including two Republicans. However, no Senate Republicans have officially backed it. If passed by Congress, President Donald Trump would have to sign it into law.
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 make it illegal for religious business owners to refuse service.
Mary Beth Waddell, a senior legislative assistant for the Family Research Council, says 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.