Nancy Pelosi has reaffirmed her commitment to LGBTQ equality as newly elected Speaker of the House, promising federal protections for LGBTQ people.
During her gavel acceptance speech this week, addressing the U.S. House of Representatives, Pelosi announced that she is prioritizing the passage of the Equality Act.
The Equality Act, previously introduced in the House by gay Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, explicitly outlawing discrimination against LGBTQ citizens.
“This House will take action on overdue legislation that has bipartisan support in the Congress and across the country,” Pelosi said. “We will make America fairer by passing the Equality Act to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community.”
Pelosi, who led her Democratic party to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November 2018 midterm elections, returns to the speakership position she lost after Republicans took the House in 2010.
"Now is the time to move equality forward by advancing the Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans are able to go to go to work, raise their families, and live their lives free from discrimination," said Chad Griffin, outgoing Human Rights Campaign president, in a statement.
"Far too many LGBTQ people face unfair and unjust discrimination each and every day with only a patchwork of protections across the country. We are thankful for Speaker Pelosi reaffirming her commitment to advance this critically important legislation and seize this historic moment to make full federal LGBTQ equality a reality."
HRC estimates about 50 percent of LGBTQ Americans live in one of 30 states with no legal protections, putting them at risk of losing their jobs, housing, or other services based on their sexuality or gender identity.
A spokesman for Pelosi tells the Washington Blade that the bill has bipartisan support in the chamber. It is expected to pass through the House of Representatives, which has held a Democratic majority since the midterms, but may face challenges in the Republican-controlled Senate.
As House Democratic Leader, Pelosi revealed the support of more than 100 LGBTQ leaders and advocates in November as part of her campaign to reclaim the speakership.
The endorsement letter, joining a series of testimonials from various national groups, emphasized the San Francisco congresswoman's “tireless” work for LGBTQ rights, including her efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic and pass hate crimes legislation.
Signatories included Griffin, Jim Obergefell, and first openly gay U.S. ambassador James Hormel.
Pelosi, 78, served as the 52nd Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011, becoming the first woman to hold the position. The appointment also made her the highest-ranking female politician in U.S. history.
Pelosi also made a surprise appearance in November at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s National Dinner Gala in Washington, D.C., the Washington Blade reports.
“The American people elected a Democratic majority,” Pelosi told the crowd at the National Building Museum. “We are proud that so many new LGBTQ members... represent every corner of our country. LGBTQ members look like America: They’re mothers, business owners, people of color, and members of the native nations.”
Criticizing Trump's transgender military ban and noting that 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Pelosi emphasized that the Equality Act will be "a top priority" for the Democratic majority, adding, "We must finally give sexual orientation and gender identity the full civil rights protection they deserve."
Pelosi memorably visited the workroom last year on an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.