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Democrats in the House push LGBT 'Equality Act' — here's what it could mean for you


The bill would make it legal for LGBT individuals to use the bathroom of their choice

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Democrats in Congress have put forward the "Equality Act" to prevent discrimination against the LGBT community, but conservative critics worry that it could force business owners and doctors to violate their firmly held beliefs.

What's in the 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.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) who introduced the bill in the House, said in a news release that the bill would prevent same sex couples from being "fired from their jobs, evicted from their apartment, or kicked out of a restaurant."

As Conservative Review writer Nate Madden noted, the bill could also hurt the cases of bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein and Jack Phillips, all three of whom were hit by lawsuits after refusing on religious grounds to decorate cakes to celebrate gay weddings.

The conservative Heritage Foundation also argued that the bill would force religious doctors and hospitals to perform sex change surgery, and that it would pre-empt the rights of parents in cases where their minor children identify as transgender.

The bill would also grant controversial protections for LGBT individuals to use the bathroom of their choice. According to the text of the bill:

(with respect to gender identity) an individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual's gender identity.

Who is supporting the bill?

Every Democrat in the House of Representatives is co-sponsoring the bill, as well as three Republicans, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), and Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico). Representatives from U.S. territories can co-sponsor bills and vote on them in committee, but cannot participate in the final floor vote.

The legislation has also been endorsed by at least 161 companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon.

Despite its support in the House, this bill is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

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