The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

House Passes Equality Act

On May 17, 2019, the House passed H.R. 5, the Equality Act, by a vote of 236 to 173. Eight Republicans joined Democrats to pass the bill that would make employment discrimination and other forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity unlawful.

The bill would amend existing civil rights law — including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government — to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex.

Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the bill in the House on March 13 and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. The House vote is largely symbolic as the bill is not expected to come up for a vote in the Senate, especially since President Trump has signaled that he would likely veto the bill. However, the bill’s approval in the House comes at a time when the Supreme Court is considering three cases that look at whether the Civil Rights Act’s Title VII prohibition against sex-based employment discrimination extends to sexual orientation and gender identity.

CUPA-HR, along with 63 other trade associations, sent a letter on May 16 to House leaders urging passage of the Equality Act. We also joined 43 other trade associations when the bill was introduced in sending a letter of support for the provisions in the bill that provide employment non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.