Chairman Nadler Floor Statement in Support of the Equality Act

House Passes LGBTQ ‘Equality Act’ in 236-173 Vote

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Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following statement in support of H.R. 5, the Equality Act, which explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity:

“I rise today in strong support of H.R. 5, the “Equality Act,” which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other core civil rights statutes, to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The bill would also strengthen non-discrimination protections for women and others.

“Today is a historic day—the first time a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill has come to the floor of the House.  This long overdue legislation will provide millions of LGBTQ Americans protections from being denied medical care, fired from their jobs, or thrown out of their homes simply because of who they are.

“Much of the history of the United States has been about expanding the definition of who is understood to be included when the Declaration of Independence says, “all men are created equal.”  When these words were first written, that phrase did not include black and Latino men; it did not include Native Americans; it did not include women; and it did not include LGBTQ individuals.

“At this moment, we have an opportunity to continue our march toward justice—to enshrine in our nation’s laws protections for marginalized communities to ensure that everyone can fully participate in key areas of life, and to provide them recourse in the face of discrimination.

“Despite what opponents of the bill may say, we know these protections can work.  We know that our existing federal nondiscrimination laws have helped millions of Americans.

“We know that protections for sexual orientation and gender identity have worked in more than 20 states and that, in these places, women still have rights, religious freedom is still protected, parents are still involved in their children’s healthcare, and doctors are still free to exercise their professional medical judgment.  Transgender individuals play sports—and sometimes they win and sometimes they lose, just like everyone else.

“But the ability to have a job, to receive medical care, or to rent a home should not depend on who someone is or where they happen to live. We cannot accept the situation where anyone in this country  can get married on Sunday and legally be fired on Monday because of who they love.

“For decades, the LGBTQ community has been coming to Congress to tell us their stories.  We have heard of transgender women being fired from their jobs, lesbian couples being kicked out of their homes, and gay men being denied medical care.  It is time we stop asking them to come to the Capitol just to defend their existence.

“The question before us is not whether the LGBTQ community faces outrageous and immoral discrimination, for the record shows that it clearly does.  The question is whether we, as Congress, are willing to take action to do something about it.  The answer goes straight to the heart of who we want to be as a country—and today, that answer must be a resounding “yes.”

“To the thousands of LGBTQ people who have shared their stories, I say: thank you for your bravery.  Thank you for re-living your trauma to help build the case for this legislation—to build the case for expanding freedom in this country.

“We hear you; we see you; we believe you.  And we will continue fighting for you.

“I thank the gentleman from Rhode Island, Representative David Cicilline, for his tireless leadership in introducing this bill and helping to shepherd it through the legislative process.  I urge my colleagues to support this landmark legislation and I reserve the balance of my time.”