Rep. Bob Dold, who represents Illinois’ 10th congressional district in Congress, announced in a statement Friday he would become a co-sponsor of the legislation.
“Illinois has a long and proud history of fighting for equal rights, and I am proud to continue this tradition by supporting the Equality Act,” Dold said. “Engraved on the front of the Supreme Court is the phrase ‘equal justice under the law,’ but as long as any Americans can be legally discriminated against, there is not equal justice in this country. Congress must act to ensure that all Americans, including the LGBT community, are protected equally from discrimination under federal law, just as they already are in my home state of Illinois.”
In the statement, Dold suggested that even though he’s co-sponsoring the legislation, he would like to see changes to the bill down the road to accommodate religious liberty.
“While this bill is not perfect in its current form, it marks an important first step in the process of crafting a bipartisan bill that ensures equal rights for all Americans while also fully protecting the religious freedoms our Constitution guarantees,” Dold said. “I am eager to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to strengthen this legislation to ensure it unequivocally prevents discrimination against all Americans while also firmly protecting religious freedom and liberty.”
The Washington Blade has placed a call in with Dold’s office to clarify what kind of changes to the Equality Act the lawmaker would like to see as he becomes a co-sponsor of the bill.
In July, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in the U.S. House and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in the U.S. Senate introduced the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act to include a prohibition on anti-LGBT discrimination in all areas of federal civil rights law.
At the time, the bill had 155 original co-sponsors in the House and 40 co-sponsors in the Senate, but they were all Democrats. Dold’s support changes things, although the Equality Act still faces a uphill battle in getting passed during the 114th Congress.
In a recent interview with the Washington Blade, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said he sees no chance of the bill becoming law this year, although he’s optimistic about it happening in the near future.
Griffin commended Dold in a statement for becoming the first Republican co-sponsor of the Equality Act in either chamber of Congress.
“Bob Dold is showing tremendous leadership today by becoming the first Republican to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Equality Act and we’re thrilled that he’s standing up for our fundamental values of fairness and equality,” Griffin said. “Far too many LGBT people – nearly two thirds – have faced unfair and unjust discrimination in their lives, much of it in the workplace. In co-sponsoring the Equality Act, Congressman Dold showed how important it is that LGBT people be able to have a fair chance to earn a living, provide for their families, and live free from fear of discrimination.”
Dold, who won his seat in the Republican wave in 2014, announces his co-sponsorship of the bill at time when he’s facing a steep challenge from Democratic challenger Brad Schneider, a former member of Congress who held the seat representing Illinois’ 10th congressional before Dold bested him.
Just last week, Dold voted against a motion to recommit on the House floor that would have protected President Obama’s executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors.
Sacha Haworth, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, accused Dold of “pandering” by announcing support for the Equality Act.
“Remember when Bob Dold said marriage was between a man and a woman – and voted against workplace protections for LGBT workers literally eight days ago?” Haworth said. “Illinois voters do, because that’s the real Bob Dold. It is exactly this shameless pandering that he’ll be held accountable for in November.”
Nonetheless, Dold is considered a Republican supporter of LGBT rights. He’s among seven House Republicans considered to support same-sex marriage and signed a friend-of-the-court brief to encourage the Supreme Court to rule for marriage equality nationwide.