Schumer Condemns 'Despicable' Transphobic Remarks From Republicans Ahead of Equality Act Vote

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke frankly about the efforts by some Republican federal lawmakers to prevent the Equality Act's passage in Congress Thursday afternoon, as members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a floor vote to approve the anti-discrimination legislation.

"Their despicable comments just make my blood boil with anger," said the New York senator, a Democrat, in reference to Republican colleagues whose arguments opposing the bill were transphobic and, in Schumer's words, "just mean."

The House ultimately passed the Equality Act, which aims to provide expanded protections to LGBTQ people and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, by a 224-206 vote on Thursday. Three Republican lawmakers—John Katko and Tom Reed of New York, and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania—voted alongside all 221 House Democrats in support of the bill's passage. It will now face an upcoming vote in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between members of both parties. Democrats hold a slim majority in the congressional chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as tie-breaker.

As members of the House presented arguments in favor of, and against, the Equality Act, Schumer advocated for its passage during a press conference where he delivered remarks alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several Democratic congressional lawmakers, including Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin; New Jersey Senator Cory Booker; New York Representative Jerrold Nadler; Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley; and California Representative Mark Takano.

In addition to underscoring the importance of establishing anti-discrimination statutes that protect LGBTQ people in federal law, Schumer denounced the pushback from some Republicans who refused to recognize trans identities as legitimate.

"I want to start by addressing head-on some of the despicable comments made by a few Republicans about trans people," Schumer said, opening his remarks at the press conference. "Their attacks on trans people and the transgender community are just mean. Mean. And show a complete lack of understanding, a complete lack of empathy."

Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader, Democrats
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) departs after a news conference ahead of the House vote on the Equality Act on Capitol Hill on February 25, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Al Drago/Getty

"They don't represent our views, and they don't represent the views of a majority of Americans," he continued, adding, "That's why we're here today, to talk about the Equality Act. That's why we need it, because we have hate out there that gets in the way of the great American dream of equality."

The House originally passed the Equality Act in 2019, but the bill did not move past the Senate, where Republicans held a majority at the time.

Schumer was optimistic Thursday that the bill would pass this year.

"Now, with Democrats in the majority, the Senate will have the opportunity to act on this critical civil rights legislation. I will use my power as Majority Leader to put it on the floor, and let's see where everybody stands," he said. "I'm hopeful that just like in the House, the Equality Act will get Republican votes and pass the Senate with bipartisan support. And of course, we now have an ally in the White House with President Biden, who's promised to make the Equality Act a priority."

Newsweek reached out to Schumer's office for comment, but did not receive a reply in time for publication.