The Democratic-controlled U.S. House today passed legislation to expand the federal civil rights act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

This would be particularly useful in roughly two dozens states like Arkansas, where there’s no statutory legal protection against discrimination in employment, housing or public services for LGBTQ people.

The vote was 236-173, with eight Republicans in support, none from Arkansas. Reps. French Hill, Steve Womack and Rick Crawford voted no. Rep. Bruce Westerman didn’t cast a vote.


Republicans raised their familiar objections: Protecting LGBT people would be unfair to those who think their religion requires discrimination, much as religion was often cited in the 1960s as a defense of racial discrimination. The sports lockerroom “problem” was also invoked — transgender people dressing and competing with others with different birth gender.

“This is not about a red herring about men wanting to play in women’s sports. Please, this is about people like my husband Phil and I,” said Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, as he held up a photo of his husband.
“If we pass the Equality Act, people like Phil and I can be free to love who we want to love and live where we want to live and we can work where we want to work, without being fired or evicted simply because of who we are and who we love,” he added

The bill likely won’t be introduced in the Senate, where Republican belief in LGBT discrimination holds sway.