Reps. Reed, Katko Fold On Religious Liberty, Support So-Called Equality Act

On February 25, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the so-called Equality Act. The bill passed by a vote of 224-206 (unofficial).

The Equality Act would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill would give biological males access to female-only spaces across the nation, would create unfair conditions for female athletes, would place some hospitals and medical professionals in legal jeopardy if they conscientiously object to providing abortions or “sex reassignment” surgeries, would force Christian colleges and faith-based charities to recognize same-sex unions and transgenderism, and would punish some Christian businesses that decline to provide services for same-sex ceremonies.

This vote was disappointing, but not surprising. With Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) at the helm, the House can be expected to pass objectionable bills. On a positive note, the bill received 12 fewer votes in the House than it did when it passed the House in 2019. We thank the members of New York’s congressional delegation who voted against this bill: Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY2), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY11), Elise Stefanik (R-NY21), Claudia Tenney (R-NY22), and Chris Jacobs (R-NY27). It is disappointing that the other 21 New York members of the House—including Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY23) and John Katko (R-NY24)—cast their votes in support of this destructive and misguided measure. Voters should remember all of this in 2022.

While the House’s passage of the Equality Act is a setback, there is good news: The bill’s chances of passing the U.S. Senate during this year’s session are slim. The Senate’s 100 members are evenly split, with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats (including two Democrat-affiliated independents). Non-budgetary bills must receive 60 votes to reach the Senate floor. Assuming that all 50 members of the Democratic Conference support the Equality Act, the bill would need 10 Republican “yes” votes to advance to the floor. Moderate Republican Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is likely to vote for the Equality Act, and retiring Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have supported LGBT positions in the past. However, moderate-leaning Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) recently announced his opposition to the legislation. Also, Sen. Susan Collins—who co-sponsored the Equality Act during the 2019-2020 session—has said that the bill needs revision and that she is no longer a co-sponsor. At this time, it is difficult to imagine a path to 60 votes for the Equality Act in the U.S. Senate.