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Rep. John Katko one of three Republicans to vote for Equality Act, LGBTQ rights bill
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Rep. John Katko one of three Republicans to vote for Equality Act, LGBTQ rights bill

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Virus Outbreak Congress

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., speaks during a House Committee on Homeland Security meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington July 22, 2020.

U.S. Rep. John Katko was one of three Republicans who joined with House Democrats on Thursday to pass a bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sex and sexual orientation. 

The House approved the Equality Act by a 224-206 vote. Another New Yorker, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, was one of the other Republicans who voted for the bill. U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, also supported the legislation. 

It's the second time Katko, R-Camillus, has split with most of his party and voted for the Equality Act. In 2019, the House passed the bill with eight GOP votes. Katko not only voted in favor of it on the House floor, but he signed on as a cosponsor. 

LGBTQ advocacy groups endorse the Equality Act because it would expand protections by including gender identity, sex and sexual orientation as prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation, according to the bill's summary. It would prohibit discrimination in education, employment, federal funding, housing and public accommodations. 

Opponents believe it's government outreach. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, a conservative group that opposes the Equality Act, urged three New York members who voted for the bill in 2019 — Katko, Reed and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik — to "make a course correction" and vote against the legislation. Only Stefanik changed her position. 

In a statement, Katko said the Equality Act would create a "uniform federal standard for preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity." 

"In New York, this bill is already established law," he said. "But in states across the country, differing standards have made it difficult for employers to conform to conflicting laws. The Equality Act has received strong support from the business and manufacturing community. This will ensure equal opportunity in the workplace." 

The bill was endorsed by national business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

Katko supported the Equality Act despite past criticism of his decision to cosponsor and vote for the LGBTQ rights legislation. Prior to the 2020 election, Conservative Party leaders panned his support of the bill. The party had endorsed him in each of his three previous runs for Congress. His cosponsorship of the Equality Act, along with other factors, led to questions about whether he would run on the line again. 

But the Conservative Party, which opposes the Equality Act, endorsed him again. He received more than 21,000 votes on the line in the 2020 election. 

The fate of the Equality Act in the Senate is unclear. There is a 50-50 split, with Democrats holding the majority because Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaking vote. But at least 10 Republicans would need to support the bill to allow for a final vote. 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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