A Republican member of the U.S. House who supports LGBT rights — but had concerns about the Equality Act — has now become a co-sponsor of the legislation.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) — who has a transgender son, Rodrigo — quietly became on Friday the second House Republican and third Republican in Congress to co-sponsor the comprehensive LGBT rights legislation.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in the House and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in the Senate, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, jury service, federal programs, credit, education and public accommodations. The legislation now has 177 co-sponsors in the House and 41 co-sponsors in the Senate.
Jay Brown, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement Ros-Lehtinen’s co-sponsorship of the Equality Act demonstrates the bipartisan appeal of the legislation.
“Equality isn’t a partisan value,” Brown said. “It’s an American value. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen is once again stepping up to ensure LGBTQ people have the same access and opportunities as our neighbors.”
Still, Republican support for the legislation is very limited. The only other Republican co-sponsor of the Equality Act in the House is Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.). In the Senate, Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) remains the only Republican co-sponsor of the legislation.
Ros-Lehtinen’s co-sponsorship of the Equality Act marks a departure from the “concerns” she expressed about the legislation even she’s considered the most pro-LGBT Republican in Congress. At the time of the bill’s introduction, Ros-Lehtinen cited “concerns about the current proposal’s broadness and how it will impact religious organizations.”
The Washington Blade has placed a request in with Ros-Lehtinen’s office seeking comment on why she would co-sponsor the Equality Act now after expressing concerns about the legislation last year.