January 15, 2016 at 10:12 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Rep. Dold becomes first Republican co-sponsor of Equality Act

Bob Dold, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) (Photo public domain)

A member of Congress from Illinois has become the first Republican co-sponsor of comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation known as the Equality Act.

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.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

17 Comments
  • Good for him for signing on, when his Republican colleagues are not. Sometimes, it’s the right thing to do, and perhaps it’s a generational thing, perhaps it’s because he’s still a first term Congressman that makes him more idealistic, but whatever it is, his co-sponsoring The Equality Act put him on the right side of history, and I say kudos, and thank you Congressman Dold.

    • the danger to him is that the repugs will kill him off re his seat in the next primary. standard practice. I still prefer dems but getting repubs on board is a good move, Perhaps they are horrified by carson and trump etc

      Yes tks- the younger generation

      • I prefer dems too, but if you check is record, he had his seat in IL, then lost it to a democrat, then won it again — so he could easily lose his seat again in 2016, it’s clearly a contested district, and his record clearly gives him broad appeal to independents and voters who might like Republicans but haven’t voted for them in a while because they have been too nuts — because he clearly isn’t. You are quite right, getting ANY republican on board is a big deal. Where one goes, others will follow.

    • Gutting existing state and local anti-discrimination laws with religious exemptions that would allow anyone to claim religious beliefs as their excuse for discriminating is not the right side of history. If he gets his way, Illinois’ existing anti-discrimination law would be practically useless.

      Save your thanks for legislators who support actual anti-discrimination bills, without massive, gaping loopholes and exemptions.

  • What the left hand giveth, the right hand taketh away. I don’t trust anyone who suggests that a civil rights bill be weakened by religious exemptions.

    • I didn’t find that in this article — where did he reference this, and what is he seeking? The Equality Act has religious exemptions by design as I understand it, adding any others would seem unnecessary. Link? Source?

      • “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.” – See more at: https://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/01/15/rep-dold-becomes-first-republican-co-sponsor-of-equality-act/#sthash.m6ucOwG7.dpuf

        • So basically for now, he’s working with the religious protections already existing in the bill — which are standard in Civil Rights legislation. There is also already a FEDERAL RFRA law, on which the numerous state RFRA laws were based, so this is already in effect, with or without passage of The Equality Act. All said, I vote for The Equality Act, to protect the 62% of LGBT Americans with NO protection from discrimination.

        • You do realize we’re talking about the #EqualityAct, right? The legislation would NOT strip existing state protections for LGBT Americans, it would merely add LGBT Americans to existing FEDERAL civil rights legislation, alongside race, religion, gender, etc.

    • I don’t trust anyone who suggests that a civil rights bill be weakened by religious exemptions.?

      Freedom of religion [also described as freedom of thought or conscience] is our most important civil right. Tell me you see that.

      • Your freedom of religion does not allow you to discriminate against others. There is no religious right to discriminate. As such, there is no need for any exemptions. if you have a problem with LGBT people, then don’t be one. But you don’t have the right to fire someone, deny them housing or deny them public accommodations, because you falsely believe that your religion wishes you to do so.

      • “Freedom of religion [also described as freedom of thought or conscience] is our most important civil right”

        No. Freedom FROM religion is – which is a right that the vast majority of religious exemption-pushers do not believe in.

  • So, in other words, he’s signing on to the bill so that he can water it down and make it practically useless. Anyone will be able to claim it’s a sincere religious belief that they should be able to discriminate against LGBT people. And then this would also override state LGBT anti-discrimination laws, including the one in his home state.

    So, basically, we have a grand total of ONE GOP representative willing to co-sponsor an anti-discrimination bill, and he want to completely gut it, and all state and local anti-discrimination laws.

    Pretty typical.

  • My husband and I pay tons of taxes, I mean a lot of taxes. Why must we pay for churches and anti-gay members of society that hate us. We would love some type of legislation that would allow us to channel our tax money in certain directions. Also we give a lot of money to gay charities and the SPCA! I would just like to have a say where our tax dollars go!

  • If Larry Kramer was in better health I would love to see him in political office!

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