The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Equality Act by a vote of 236 to 173, with eight Republicans crossing the aisle to vote in favor of the bill.
What is this bill?
The bill would include both sexual orientation and gender identity under the protections offered by both the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is already illegal for employers to discriminate against people based on either of these criteria, but the bill's authors said that these existing protections did not go far enough.
Conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, have expressed concern that the Equality Act could force religious doctors and hospitals to perform sex change surgery, and that it would preempt the rights of parents in cases where their minor children identify as transgender.
Who voted for it?
Eight Republicans joined Democrats in voting for this bill: Reps. Susan Brooks (Ind.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Will Hurd (Texas), John Katko (N.Y.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), and Greg Walden (Ore.). Fitzpatrick and Katko were co-sponsors of the bill, as well as Puerto Rico GOP Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon. Representatives from U.S. territories can co-sponsor bills and vote on them in committee, but are not permitted to take part in the floor vote.
What happens next?
While Democrats hold a majority in the House, Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate. In addition, at least one Democrat — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — has said that he will not be supporting the bill. Since Vice President Mike Pence would almost certainly cast his tie-breaking vote against this legislation, this means that Democrats would have to ensure the support of all remaining senators from their own party and convince five Republicans to join them in order for the bill to pass.