GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn and DFL Rep. Angie Craig had polar opposite takes on the Equality Act, a measure passed in the House on Thursday that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identify.
Craig, who voted for the legislation, called it a long-overdue measure, the "culmination of lifetimes of hard work for so many."
"As a young lesbian woman growing up in rural America, I never imagined I'd finally see a bill like this reach the House floor -- much less as a member of this body," Craig said.
Hagedorn, who voted against it, condemned the legislation as an attempt by House Democrats to violate religious liberty and undermine equal protection for women.
"There is nothing equal about the 'Equality Act,'" Hagedorn said. "What Democrats are doing with this legislation is dangerous, unconstitutional and blatantly wrong."
After a tense and often emotional debate, the House voted 224 to 206 for the measure, with three Republicans joining all Democrats to vote yes.
The legislation would amend federal civil rights law to ensure protections for LGBTQ Americans in employment, education, housing, credit, jury service and other areas.
The legislation was passed by the House in 2019, but it died in the Republican-led Senate. This time, Democrats control the White House, House and Senate, and President Job Biden has signaled his support for the measure. But its prospects are uncertain in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to break a legislative filibuster.
Hagedorn said the results of the measure would be "destructively far-reaching," leading to the destruction of female sports, allowing biological men to access women's restrooms, locker rooms and showers, and create the threat of mandated teaching of gender fluidity "in our schools, without consent or input from parents."
"Similar laws enacted by several states have proven to be a disaster, leading to biological men participating in women's athletics and Catholic hospitals being sued over refusing to perform gender altering surgeries," he said, arguing that it threatens the existence of these organizations.
Craig said that as the first openly LGBTQ mom in Congress, she was "incredibly proud to support this crucial piece of legislation and to fight for the rights of LGBTQ Americans across the country."
"Those of us who are fortunate enough to serve our country in Congress have a responsibility to pass bills like the Equality Act to ensure that all of our constituents have equal protection under the law," Craig said. "Because when we outlaw discrimination and harassment against some, the benefits are shared by all of us -- and our communities are stronger."