Monday, May 20, 2019

Only one S.C. congressman voted for the anti-discrimination Equality Act on Friday

The bill would add LGBTQ protections to the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Posted by Adam Manno on Mon, May 20, 2019 at 2:08 PM

click to enlarge The United States Capitol building - PHOTO VIA USCAPITOL/FLICKR
  • Photo via USCapitol/Flickr
  • The United States Capitol building
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act on Friday, though only one South Carolina congressman voted for it.

The bill passed the Democratic-led chamber by a vote of 236 to 173.

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, who was elected to represent the Charleston area in November, was the only South Carolinian to vote in its favor.

click to enlarge Cunningham - U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • Cunningham
First introduced in 2015, the bill adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of groups that are federally protected from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, and access to public education.

It amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

South Carolina has no hate crime laws and offers no statewide protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, LGBTQ residents rely on a patchwork of municipal laws, with the strongest protections found in cities like Columbia and Charleston.

Earlier this month, a statewide hate crime bill made it through a S.C. House subcommittee. It won't be heard in the full House Judiciary Committee until next year.

The Trump administration has argued against federal protections for LGBTQ workers. The Supreme Court, which now leans right, is expected to rule on whether the Civil Rights Act applies to LGBTQ workers in 2020.
A majority of South Carolinians (58 percent) support anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people, according to a poll released in March by the Public Religion Research Institute. Nationally, 79 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans said they favor laws that would shield LGBT people from various kinds of discrimination.

In Congress, support for the Equality Act from the Palmetto State's delegation was split along party lines.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat who represents parts of Charleston, was in South Carolina because of a family matter and could not attend the vote. He released a statement praising the bill's passage on Friday.

"Discrimination against any community in employment, housing, and public accommodations goes against our nation’s core values and no one should live in fear because of who they are, how they identify, or who they love," he said.

Republican Reps. William Timmons, Jeff Duncan, Ralph Norman, and Tom Rice voted against it. Rep. Joe Wilson, also a Republican, did not vote.

A representative for Wilson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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