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Providing for Consideration of H.R. Colorado Wilderness Act of and Providing for Consideration of H.R. Equality Act

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 24, 2021
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 147 and ask for its immediate consideration.

The Clerk read the resolution, as follows: H. Res. 147

Resolved, That upon adoption of this resolution it shall be in order to consider in the House the bill (H.R. 803) to designate certain lands in the State of Colorado as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and for other purposes. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. An amendment in the nature of a substitute consisting of the text of Rules Committee Print 117-2, modified by the amendment printed in part A of the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution, shall be considered as adopted. The bill, as amended, shall be considered as read. All points of order against provisions in the bill, as amended, are waived. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill, as amended, and on any further amendment thereto, to final passage without intervening motion except: (1) one hour of debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Natural Resources; (2) the further amendments described in section 2 of this resolution; (3) the amendments en bloc described in section 3 of this resolution; and (4) one motion to recommit.

Sec. 2. After debate pursuant to the first section of this resolution, each further amendment printed in part B of the report of the Committee on Rules not earlier considered as part of amendments en bloc pursuant to section 3 of this resolution shall be considered only in the order printed in the report, may be offered only by a Member designated in the report, shall be considered as read, shall be debatable for the time specified in the report equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent, may be withdrawn by the proponent at any time before the question is put thereon, shall not be subject to amendment, and shall not be subject to a demand for division of the question.

Sec. 3. It shall be in order at any time after debate pursuant to the first section of this resolution for the chair of the Committee on Natural Resources or his designee to offer amendments en bloc consisting of further amendments printed in part B of the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution not earlier disposed of. Amendments en bloc offered pursuant to this section shall be considered as read, shall be debatable for 20 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Natural Resources or their respective designees, shall not be subject to amendment, and shall not be subject to a demand for division of the question.

Sec. 4. All points of order against the further amendments printed in part B of the report of the Committee on Rules or amendments en bloc described in section 3 of this resolution are waived.

Sec. 5. Upon adoption of this resolution it shall be in order to consider in the House the bill (H.R. 5) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. The bill shall be considered as read. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and on any amendment thereto to final passage without intervening motion except: (1) 90 minutes of debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary; and (2) one motion to recommit.

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Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman and my colleague from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Mr. Reschenthaler), pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only. General Leave
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Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Rules Committee met and reported a rule, House Resolution 147, providing for consideration of H.R. 5, the Equality Act, under a closed rule. The rule provides 90 minutes of debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary and one motion to recommit.

The rule also provides for consideration of H.R. 803, the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act, under a structured rule. The rule provides 1 hour of debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking member of the Committee on Natural Resources and self-executes a manager's amendment from Chairman Grijalva. It also makes in order 29 amendments, provides en bloc authority to Chairman Grijalva, and provides one motion to recommit.

Mr. Speaker, we are here today to debate the rule for two critical pieces of legislation, H.R. 5, the Equality Act, and H.R. 803, the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act.

This is a historic day for Congress and for equal rights. Over 45 years ago, Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced the first version of the Equality Act, a bill that will provide full legal protections to LGBTQ people all across our country by extending the protections of the Civil Rights Act to them and making clear that we must respect, defend, and celebrate the dignity innate of everyone in our communities, including--and perhaps especially--those who are perceived as different or non-binary.

The version of the Equality Act that we consider today is the result of years of careful legislative drafting and amends existing civil rights laws to provide protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in key areas of public life: employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

Additionally, the Equality Act updates the public spaces and services covered in current law to include retail stores and services, such as banks, legal services, and transportation. These important updates would strengthen existing protections for everyone.

The journey to this final version of the Equality Act was led by a dear colleague who is a historymaker in his own right, co-chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus and my colleague on the Judiciary Committee, Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island. Congressman Cicilline worked with lawyers and advocates from the left and the right, religious groups, and a host of civil rights groups to make sure the language of the Equality Act achieved full legal equality while protecting existing civil rights for other marginalized groups.

The resulting bill is supported by 130 of the largest employees in the country, our largest labor unions, and the hundreds of organizations including, to name just a few, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the National Women's Law Center, the Episcopal Church, the Union for Reform Judaism, and the United Church of Christ.

And, most importantly, it is supported by a clear and overwhelming majority of the American people. Seventy-one percent of Americans support this legislation, including majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.

The clear majority of both the House and the American people recognize that for too long LGBTQ people have faced discrimination with no Federal legal recourse. It is beyond dispute that LGBTQ people-- especially transgender people and, even more so, transgender women of color--face discrimination across this country.

To echo other speakers, this issue is deeply personal for me. It has been personal since my baby sister came out to me almost 40 years ago. For many people all across this country and across this House, that is when this fight hits home.

It gets personal when someone whom you love says: This is who I am.

It gets personal when you know and value that person and you want to do whatever you can to make sure that your loved one can live their life to the fullest, free from hate and discrimination.

I am sad to say that my home, Pennsylvania, is one of the 30 States that defies the will of its people by not having legal protections for LGBTQ people. The idea that my sister--someone who put her life on the line for our country when she served in our Armed Forces--could drive across State lines and lose protections is heartbreaking.

The Equality Act ends the patchwork of State laws and creates uniform, nationwide protections. LGBTQ people won't have to worry that being transferred to another State by their employer or needing to move home to take care of ailing parents will cause them to lose civil rights protections. From sea to shining sea, LGBTQ people will have the security and stability that comes from knowing that, if they face discrimination, they have legal recourse.

It is also important to note what the Equality Act does not do. The Equality Act does not impinge on religious freedom. Religious liberty is a cornerstone value of our Constitution and our country. Religious organizations are currently able to prefer their own members and their version of morality in hiring for religious positions, such as ministers and schoolteachers. The Equality Act does nothing to change that. The Equality Act does not force anyone to perform or obtain abortions in violation of their religious beliefs, and it does not strip girls of their title 9 protections.

The Equality Act does clarify what has long been held: That religious freedom laws do not create an exemption to civil rights laws.

Just like a person can't use a claim of religious freedom to refuse to sell a house to an interracial couple, under the Equality Act LGBTQ families will be protected from discrimination regardless of its motivation.

Consider the stakes facing LGBTQ people too often all across this country. A same-sex couple walks into a restaurant. Having hired a babysitter to look after their young children, they are hoping to have a relaxing night out. But, instead, when they are seated and looking at the menu, the manager comes over and tells them that they have to leave. They aren't welcome.

This kind of insecurity and humiliation occurs on a daily basis across this country, and in 30 States the couple would have no legal recourse. Often, humiliation is just the tip of the iceberg. Same-sex couples are far more likely to be denied housing; qualified and high- performing transgender people are more likely to be fired from their jobs; and LGBTQ young people face rejection and discrimination in school, which can deny them an education.

These injuries compound and lead to poverty, homelessness, and violence. The impact is felt the hardest by transgender women of color, who confront racial discrimination, sex discrimination, and gender identity discrimination. The intersection of these forms of discrimination is all too often deadly.

The protections provided by the Equality Act give LGBTQ people an equal chance at the American Dream. While discrimination and rejection has ended the lives of too many transgender people, many are succeeding despite discrimination.

We are talking here about the civil rights of our friends, our family, and public servants. In Pennsylvania, Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, served in the Governor's cabinet as Secretary for Health, and has recently been nominated by President Biden to serve as Assistant Health Secretary.

Mara Keisling, a Pennsylvania native, is the founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality and a pioneer for civil rights protections.

Sarah McBride was recently sworn in as the first transgender Senator in the State of Delaware.

And of course, Pete Buttigieg was recently sworn in as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, becoming the first openly gay cabinet member to be confirmed by the Senate.

Opponents of the Equality Act keep trying to pit cisgender girls against transgender girls, when really this legislation is about strengthening opportunity for all girls and women. Whether it is women's sports, single-sex colleges, or homeless services for women, the Equality Act simply prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in these areas. It doesn't undermine these institutions or prohibit them; it simply ensures that they are inclusive of all women and girls, including trans women and girls.

Support for this legislation is overwhelming and deserves an overwhelmingly positive response from this body. I encourage all of my colleagues to support the rule and underlying legislation, and further encourage the Senate to swiftly act to pass this bill so that we can finally provide firm, statutory protections to the LGBTQ community.

Next, Mr. Speaker, is H.R. 803, the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act. This is a package of public bills from the Natural Resources Committee that will designate more than 1.5 million acres as wilderness areas, and more than 1,200 river miles into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

The bill would also withdraw more than 1.2 million acres of public land from new drilling and mining, ensuring that iconic landscapes like the Grand Canyon and Colorado's Thompson Divide are permanently protected for future generations to enjoy.

Few things in the United States are as universally cherished by Americans as are our public lands. Our country is home to more than 111 million acres of designated wilderness, and these lands help us combat climate change, provide for an array of ecological diversity, and offer recreational activities to Americans young and old.

As we continue to endure the devastating effects of climate change, providing for millions of additional acres of wilderness will allow for these areas to continue to serve as critical ``carbon sinks'' to capture and mitigate carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

A similar version of this legislation passed the House last Congress, but this version includes a critical new piece from Natural Resources Committee Chairman Grijalva, the Grand Canyon Protection Act. This bill would permanently ban new mining claims on approximately one million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park, while helping to protect the clean water resources critical to the livelihoods of local Tribal communities.

The Grand Canyon Protection Act was developed by Chairman Grijalva in close consultation with all of the relevant stakeholders in his district and serves to protect one of the most cherished places in the United States.

You may hear my colleague from Pennsylvania argue that this bill is nothing but a land grab, an attempt to subvert private industry. Of course, this couldn't be farther from the truth.

Mining, like every other industry, is subject to the whim of the free market. Historically, when the demand for these minerals has dropped, mining companies are all too prepared to skip town without cleaning up any of their mess.

This bill isn't about whether or not nuclear energy and its inputs will be part of our clean energy future, but if we want to ensure that it is, then I would recommend that we first start by supporting effective regulations on new and existing nuclear plants and their capabilities. The best way to ensure demand for a product is to similarly ensure that its user won't decide it isn't worth pursuing or is unaffordable.

The merits of nuclear energy aside, you can't deny that its use in this country is on the downswing or, at the very least, stagnant. This isn't due to over-regulation; it is due to under-regulation. It is due to massive cost overruns and incompetent government oversight.

The U.S. has had only one new nuclear reactor become operational in the last 20 years. This isn't because a mining company or two hasn't been afforded the opportunity to desecrate our national resources, but because the U.S. has not yet proven we can responsibly operate a nuclear plant that, from start to finish, is safe and has the trust of the American people.

Public lands do not belong to those only in the Congressional district in which they are located; they belong to all of us. Wilderness areas in the great State of Colorado belong to you and me as much as Independence Hall belongs to a native of Colorado. We all have a role to play in protecting these lands and seeking carveouts for mining companies is not the right way forward.

I want to especially thank my colleague, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, for her tireless and bipartisan work in getting this legislation to such a great place.
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Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, I would just note for the record that over 20 States already have versions of this law, the Equality Act, with respect to participation in sports, as do the Olympics, and we have not seen the kind of behavior that has just been suggested.
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Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, I would just restate that this act does not take away any of the religious freedoms that are already enshrined in multiple laws. It does not change those laws.

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Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, with respect to the gentlewoman's question, with respect to the language in question, it has long been held by our courts that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not apply to civil rights laws.

The Equality Act looks to treat discrimination against LGBTQ individuals the same way as other forms of discrimination, including racial discrimination. So, these arguments just don't hold water.

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Ms. SCANLON. Mr. Speaker, I would just note that what we saw in Texas this past week was a truly astonishing, unusual snowstorm with frigid cold conditions that are not normal--as the Speaker knows--in Texas, and that happens because of climate change.

Because we haven't done enough to protect our wilderness and to protect our environment, we end up with extreme climate events like we just saw, and this bill is a step toward redressing that imbalance.

I would just note, as a parent, a former school board member, and education advocate, of course, we all want what is best for our students and what is best for our schools.

But I would also suggest that a one-size-fits-all, everybody has to go back in person to schools does not serve anybody well.

We have seen around the country--first of all, our schools in Pennsylvania are not closed. They are open. Some are virtual, some are hybrid, some are in person. But each community is doing what it needs to do in response to the conditions that are present at this time.

So I agree with my colleague on the Rules Committee that we absolutely need to get our school districts and our State and local governments the money they need to safely reopen schools, and we are looking forward to doing that with our reconciliation bill on Friday.

Mr. Speaker, I just inquire whether the gentleman from Pennsylvania is prepared to close.

Mr. Speaker, today, we are moving forward on two pieces of legislation whose timely consideration is long overdue. And I would note that H.R. 5 did pass last Congress with a bipartisan majority.

So we are looking forward, at long last, to passing the Equality Act through both Chambers and removing the burden of discrimination that can move us closer to a country where members of the LGBTQ community have an equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

The Equality Act isn't going to be the end of our long journey toward full LGBTQ equality, but it will bring our laws into line across the country with values that our country was founded upon.

We must continually take steps to make our country more perfect. Acknowledging in law the challenges that actually face LGBTQ people and taking concrete action to correct them brings us another step closer.

Mr. Speaker, we will pass the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act in order to ensure that the sacred lands that all Americans share equally cannot be tarnished for the benefit of a few.

We have a long way to go in addressing the myriad problems facing this country, but the two bills before us today are a strong and necessary start to helping our Nation live up to its full potential.

Mr. Speaker, I urge a ``yes'' vote on the rule and the previous question.

The material previously referred to by Mr. Reschenthaler is as follows: Amendment to House Resolution 147

At the end of the resolution, add the following:

Sec. 6. Immediately upon adoption of this resolution, the House shall resolve into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R. 682) to encourage local educational agencies to resume in- person instruction at elementary and secondary schools, and for other purposes. The first reading of the bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived. General debate shall be confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Education and Labor. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule. All points of order against provisions in the bill are waived. When the committee rises and reports the bill back to the House with a recommendation that the bill do pass, the previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit. If the Committee of the Whole rises and reports that it has come to no resolution on the bill, then on the next legislative day the House shall, immediately after the third daily order of business under clause 1 of rule XIV, resolve into the Committee of the Whole for further consideration of the bill.

Sec. 7. Clause 1(c) of rule XIX shall not apply to the consideration of H.R. 682.
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