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King, Collins voice different opinions on Equality Act

Sen. King announced he supports the legislation while Sen. Collins rescinds her initial support and may introduce her own bill, her office says
Credit: NCM

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Maine's Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King announced his support and co-sponsorship of the landmark Equality Act on Tuesday.

The comprehensive, historic legislation would ban discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. 

“Our nation was founded on the promise of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'; a basic condition of which is that you are free to be yourself without unfair treatment, interference, or other discrimination,” King said in a statement Tuesday. “Unfortunately, right now American law does not guarantee key protections to our LGBTQ citizens, who can be evicted, denied service at public establishments, or blocked from accessing a loan in 29 states across the country due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This discrimination strikes at the heart of the values of our nation – let us come together and pass this bill, so we can take a step closer to truly guaranteeing liberty and justice for all.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, however, has changed her initial support for the current proposed legislation and may introduce her own bill. 

Annie Clark, communications director for Collins, said in a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine, "The Equality Act was a starting point for negotiations, and Senator Collins agreed to introduce it with the agreement that all of the cosponsors would work together to make further changes."

"Unfortunately, they were unwilling to work out those changes," Clark said.

Clark cited Collins' longtime support of LGBTQ rights including opposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, supporting laws to prevent hate crimes, and repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military. 

"Senator Collins supports ensuring fairness and equal treatment of all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and she is considering all possible options to do so, including introducing her own bill," Clark said. 

RELATED: More Americans identify as LGBTQ than ever before

The Equality Act amends existing federal anti-discrimination laws to explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity to be protected against discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, federal funding, and more. 

The legislation would also add protections against sex discrimination in parts of anti-discrimination laws where these protections had not been included previously.

King's office explained in a press release that the Equality Act expands the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Legislation recently applied to a Supreme Court workplace discrimination ruling in Bostock v. Clayton. While successfully used in this case, it had not yet been nationally applied to other areas of potential discrimination. The Equality Act would encompass all civil rights laws. The legislation ensures that these essential protections for LGBTQ Americans are not subject to the interpretations of a changing court.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act by a vote of 224-206, with three Republicans joining Democrats in voting yes.