The U.S. House of Representatives passed landmark civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ Americans on Thursday, passing the Equality Act with (narrow) bi-partisan support.
The Equality Act amends the 1964 Civil Rights act to include sexual orientation and gender identity among categories of Americans, alongside race, who are specifically protected from discrimination.
Two New Mexicans were prominently featured in the debate Thursday. First district Congresswoman Deb Haaland presided over a portion of the debate as the acting Speaker of the House.
Second District Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, the state’s lone Republican in Congress, was granted time by House Republican leaders to make the case against the bill.
After numerous Democrats rose to make the point that discrimination against Americans who self-identify as LGBTQ is totally legal, Republicans pushed back.
In a three minute speech on the House floor, Herrell stated that banning discrimination against LGBTQ Americans would “harm” other Americans. “We can’t be so anxious to protect one class of people that we harm another,” she began.
“It places women in sports, in domestic violence shelters, in the healthcare profession at risk,” she continued without citation or attribution. Her statements track with those published in a guest column in USA Today earlier this week by a UFC fighter and a conservative blogger, stoking fears that male athletes would claim to be transgender to gain an advantage when playing women’s sports. Unfortunately for Harrell, no studies are showing that evidence of this occurs. There is no evidence that victims of domestic violence, including LGBTQ victims, are less safe in a domestic violence shelter when transgender or gay persons are welcomed. 54 percent of trans persons report having experienced domestic violence.
Watch Herrell’s full speech on the floor in this C-SPAN link.
Rep. Teresa Ledger Fernandez and Rep. Haaland, both co-sponsored and voted in favor of the Equality Act.