Rep. Cicilline: States Using Religion as ‘Excuse for Discrimination’ Against LGBT

Penny Starr | April 28, 2016 | 3:32pm EDT
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Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) 

( Starr)

( -- Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said at a press conference on Thursday that the bill he sponsored to include “sex,” “sexual orientation,” and “gender identity” as protected classes under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was needed to counter state laws and proposed state laws that are “allowing religion to be used as an excuse for discrimination.”

Cicilline said many state laws -- on the books or proposed -- “legalize discrimination” against homosexuals and can be found in almost 200 bills in 34 states.

“They range from allowing religion to be used as an excuse for discrimination to laws denying transgender individuals the use of facilities consistent with their gender identity,” Cicilline said at the press conference on Capitol Hill.

Cicilline and other Democrats at the press conference, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), announced a letter was sent on Thursday to Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, seeking a hearing on H.R. 3185, the Equality Act.

Cicilline said Republicans have not allowed any bills focused on LGBT equality to advance in the House.

“Their failure to act has created a vacuum of leadership on this issue and as we all know, nature abhors a vacuum," said Cicilline.  "And so in recent weeks we’ve seen state lawmakers who have rushed to fill this vacuum with new laws that legalize discrimination against the LGBT community."

Cicilline said that bills to protect religious liberty or to designate public restrooms for use according to one’s biological sex have already been made law in North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee.

“We cannot allow this to continue,” Cicilline said.

H.R. 3185, the Equality Act, has 174 congressional co-sponsors so far, all of them Democrat except for one Republican. 

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