Big legislative initiatives may be crowding out passage of Equality Act

(Crux) With President Joe Biden now proposing several ultra-expensive infrastructure, education and family-related bills, the president’s controversial Equality Act may get a slower hearing in the U.S. Senate.

In March, the Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives but faces an uncertain outcome in the Senate, which is split more equally between Democrats and Republicans.

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, the credit system and jury duty. It also seeks to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and also expand the number of institutions now classified as public accommodations.

Meanwhile, Biden is asking for quick passage of a $2.25 trillion infrastructure package as well as his new American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion program to expand access to preschool and community college as well as child care and health care benefits.

“There is big stuff moving through Congress right now that is taking up a lot of the bandwidth, including high priority stuff like infrastructure proposal and what not, and I think (the Senate’s pending vote on the Equality Act) is at least partially the product of that,” said Dan Balserak, religious liberty director and assistant general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Equality Act has been described as a historic faceoff between religious exemptions and LGBTQ rights, and Balserak said he doesn’t think the debate around the Equality Act will put the overall debate to rest.