WASHINGTON (ABC4 News) – Equal rights and religious freedom clash in the nation’s capital as the House votes on the Equality Act.
After a spirited debate on the House floor came a victory for Democrats.
The House passed the Equality Act, which makes sweeping reforms to the Civil Rights Act to include protections for the LGBTQ community, on a vote of 236-173.
The bill creates protected characteristics for sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The LGBTQ community is a critical part of the fabric of our country. They are deserving of our unequivocal love and respect, and their contributions to my home state of Utah are utterly invaluable,” said Representative John Curtis, (R) Utah.
That said, Curtis joined Utah’s other Republican representatives in voting no.
He says the Equality Act fails to find a balance between LGBTQ rights and religious freedom.
And, he says efforts to negotiate have been silenced.
“I’m frustrated that House Democratic leaders have decided there will not be any consideration or even debate of amendments to the Equality Act. Instead, they’ve established a model of legislative gaslighting,” said Curtis.
The only Democrat in Utah’s delegation, Representative Ben McAdams admits the bill needs work, but he sees it as a step in the right direction.
He voted against the resolution to block debate and amendments, which included one of his own but voted in favor of the bill.
He used time on the floor to clarify the impact on religion with the bill sponsor.
“Houses of worship will continue to have legal certainty to practice their religion, conduct services and affiliate with fellow members of their religion. As well as engage, and welcome others, not of their faith in their houses of worship for religious activity, or faith practice as they do now,” asked McAdams, (D) Utah.
“Yes, that is correct,” replied Representative David Cicilline, (D) Rhode Island.
Both McAdams and Curtis reference Utah’s landmark non-discrimination and religious freedom compromise as a better solution.
The Equality Act is expected to run into trouble in the Senate, and likely won’t pass there.
As it was being debated in the House, Senator Mike Lee weighed in on Twitter.
“Americans are becoming more tolerant every day, which is why the Equality Act is so counterproductive. It unnecessarily pits communities against each other and divides our nation when patience and understanding are so sorely needed,” said Lee, (R) Utah.
Americans are becoming more tolerant every day, which is why the Equality Act is so counterproductive. It unnecessarily pits communities against each other and divides our nation when patience and understanding are so sorely needed.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) May 17, 2019