Pelosi Remarks at Press Event Introducing H.R. 5, The Equality Act
March 13, 2019
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Democratic leaders of the House and Senate for a press event introducing H.R. 5, the Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations and the use of federal funds. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Senator Merkley! Thank you, Senator Merkley, I accept your kind words on behalf of our House Democrats who, overwhelmingly, support this legislation and I thank David Cicilline and the Members of the Task Force for their work to bring us to this day.
I remember full-well the day you described in the LBJ Room when we stood there, you taking the lead in the Senate, David in the House, and right between the two of you, John Lewis, John Lewis giving his imprimatur to the path that we were going down.
So, I thank you. It is a pleasure to welcome back Senator Schumer when he gets here, a former Member, and Senator Baldwin, a former Member of whom we are very proud, and thank you for your leadership, as well as Senator Booker, not of this House but certainly of this Congress who we are very proud of as well. I am proud to join all of you.
As I was listening to the comments that were being made, Congressman Cicilline – I think I decided to call you Chairman, you call everyone Chairman in the Majority – and Senator Merkley, I was thinking back on the path to this day.
When we first got the Majority, we said we had four goals we wanted to achieve. One was to pass the hate crimes legislation. Senator Baldwin was very much a part of that in the House, and Senator Schumer of course in the Senate, and then Senator Baldwin in both houses.
The next was supposed to be ENDA, end discrimination in the workplace, but we all came to the conclusion, led by the outside groups, that we should do the repeal of ‘Don’t Act Don’t Tell’ next. So, that rose to number two on the agenda, not in terms of importance but in terms of chronology and in getting the votes. So then, with the help of so many of you, we repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
Next was marriage equality, which the courts happily recognized – marriage equality. So, we had one left, ENDA. But everybody just said, why should we be ending discrimination in the workplace? What about in every place – in housing, in every place?’
So, that’s when Mr. Cicilline stepped forward and said, ‘We’ll open the Civil Rights Act.’ Not a small thing to do, and that’s why Mr. Lewis and the Congressional Black Caucus and all of our Members were so important in getting behind that fully so here we are today.
Here we are today. We are proud to stand with Members from both sides of the Capitol to take a momentous step towards full equality for LGBTQ Americans and for our country. We take great pride in serving with a record-breaking ten LGBTQ Members in the Congress. We are happy about that.
Let us once again salute David Cicilline, a champion for equality. Thank you, Senator Merkley, for your tireless leadership in the Senate.
Our inside maneuvering, though, is only possible because of the success of the outside mobilization, so I want to join David Cicilline and Senator Merkley in acknowledging the work of our outside friends who made this possible.
Advocates and allies have always made the difference: in passing fully-inclusive hate crime legislation, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Act, defeating the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act – remember that horrible thing? And more. Forget about it.
Again, your mobilizing and organizing will make the difference, once again, so I thank all of you for that. Let me just say on that score, that many of you have reported to us that many in corporate America and in the business community are behind the Equality Act, and I think that is going to be very important.
Our Founders, in their wisdom, wrote in our beautiful preamble to the Constitution ‘the blessings of liberty.’ They talked about the blessings of liberty which were to be the birthright of all Americans. That’s why I am especially upset that, last night, we were all sickened and saddened to see the President revive his hateful transgender service ban. No one with the strength and bravery to serve in the military should be turned away – turned away – so sad.
I had some trans in uniform folks here for the State of the Union Address, and they were so saddened because they have a high percentage of participation in our military, and to have that not get its full respect and, in fact, lessened by the President’s actions – so, we have important work to do in fighting to defeat this disgusting ban and we will succeed.
While the President betrays our values with his ban, the Congress is bringing our nation closer to equal liberty and justice for all with the Equality Act. Sexual orientation and gender identity deserve full civil rights protections – in the workplace and in every place, education, housing, credit, jury service – you want jury service? In public accommodations. That is why we are proud to stand with Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, many of whom are here with us, Bobby Scott, Sheila Jackson Lee. You will be hearing from Bobby Scott.
We are proud, as David said, that this bill has nearly 240 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House. We look forward to a swift, strong and successful vote on this bill. And now, it would have been my pleasure – did he come? Okay, Chuck is on the way.
Is that okay? He will be here shortly. I am pleased to welcome back to the House side, a place where we took great pride, where she was first lesbian to be elected to the Congress of the United States. How proud we are of Tammy Baldwin.
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