Monday October 14, 2019
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House Passes Equality Act, Sweeping Bill to Expand Gay Rights

Democrats in the House approved sweeping anti-discrimination legislation Friday that would extend civil rights protections to LGBT people

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Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., speaks before a House vote on the Equality Act of 2019, an LGBT rights measure, at the Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2019. The bill later passed the House 236-1. VOA

Democrats in the House approved sweeping anti-discrimination legislation Friday that would extend civil rights protections to LGBT people by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The protections would extend to employment, housing, loan applications, education, public accommodations and other areas.

Called the Equality Act, the bill is a top priority of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said it would bring the nation “closer to equal liberty and justice for all.”

Sexual orientation and gender identity “deserve full civil rights protections — in the workplace and in every place, education, housing, credit, jury service, public accommodations,” Pelosi said.

The vote was 236-173, with every Democrat voting in favor, along with eight Republicans. Cheers and applause broke out on the House floor as the bill crossed the threshold for passage.

House, Equality Act, Bill, Gay Rights
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leaves the chamber after passage of the Equality Act of 2019, anti-discrimination legislation that would extend civil rights protections to LGBT people by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, at the Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2019. VOA

The legislation’s chief sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said it affirmed fairness and equality as core American values and ensured that “members of the LGBTQ community can live their lives free from the fear of legal discrimination of any kind.”

Cicilline, who is gay, called equal treatment under the law a founding principle of the United States, adding, “It’s absurd that, in 2019, members of the LGBTQ community can be fired from their jobs, denied service in a restaurant or get thrown out of their apartment because of their sexual orientation or gender identify.”

GOP opposition

Most Republicans oppose the bill and call it another example of government overreach. Several GOP lawmakers spoke against it Friday on the House floor. President Donald Trump is widely expected to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

At a news conference Thursday, the Republicans said the bill would jeopardize religious freedom by requiring acceptance of a particular ideology about sexuality and sexual identity.

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Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., called the legislation “grossly misnamed” and said it was “anything but equalizing.”

The bill “hijacks” the 1964 Civil Rights Act to create “a brave new world of ‘discrimination’ based on undefined terms of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Hartzler said. The legislation threatens women’s sports, shelters and schools, and could silence female athletes, domestic abuse survivors and other women, she said.

A similar bill in the Senate has been co-sponsored by all but one Senate Democrat, but faces long odds in the Republican-controlled chamber.

‘Poison pills’

A Trump administration official who asked not be identified, because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the president’s intentions, said the White House “opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all. However, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.”

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FILE – Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., left, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 25, 2014. VOA

Some critics also said the bill could jeopardize Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. Former tennis star Martina Navratilova co-wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post urging lawmakers not to “make the unnecessary and ironic mistake of sacrificing the enormously valuable social good that is female sports in their effort to secure the rights of transgender women and girls.”

Ahead of the vote, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., called the House bill “horrifying” and said it could cause Catholic schools to lose federal grants for school lunches or require faith-based adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples.

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FILE – Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 17, 2015. VOA

Neena Chaudhry, a lawyer for the National Women’s Law Center, said the bill does not undermine Title IX, because courts have already found that Title IX protects against gender-identity discrimination.

“It is way past time to fully open the doors of opportunity for every American,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., one of the Senate bill’s lead sponsors. “Let’s pass the Equality Act, and let us rejoice in the bells of freedom ringing for every American.”

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In the Senate, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine also supports the bill, while Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is the sole Democrat who is not a co-sponsor.

The eight House Republicans who voted for the bill Friday were Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Will Hurd of Texas, Greg Walden of Oregon and New York lawmakers John Katko, Tom Reed and Elise Stefanik. (VOA)

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India: Bill to Streamline Adjudication of Inter-State River Water Disputes Pass in Lok Sabha

In his concluding remarks, the Minister said as only 4 per cent water can be replenished to meet the demand

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He said the DRC would be established by the Centre consisting of experts from relevant fields before the water dispute was referred to the Tribunal. Pixabay

A Bill to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present legal and institutional architecture robust was on Wednesday passed in the Lok Sabha by voice vote.

Moving the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the draft legislation proposed to introduce a mechanism to resolve the water disputes amicably by negotiations through a Disputes Resolution Committee (DRC).

He said the DRC would be established by the Centre consisting of experts from relevant fields before the water dispute was referred to the Tribunal.

In his concluding remarks, the Minister said as only 4 per cent water can be replenished to meet the demand, it was a very important issue and this was the need of the time to think about water management because of increasing danger of climate change.

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A Bill to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present legal and institutional architecture robust was on Wednesday passed in the Lok Sabha by voice vote. Pixabay

“We should think on both demand as well as supply, otherwise a time will come when we will have to work on this issue with compulsion.”

The Minister said the Bill seeks amendment to the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 considering the increase in demand for water by the states and that inter-state river water disputes were on the rise.

Over 20 members from treasury benches and opposition raised their concerns about the Bill and proposed suggestions.

BJP’s Varun Gandhi said the country would be a loser if one looked at water from a territorial perspective and stressed on the need to look water from a national perspective.

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“We need a political solution rather than a legal one to end the inter-water river dispute… I walked across the Cauvery with academics, and what I found was deeply distressing,” he said.

“More than 50 per cent of marginal farmers have given up agriculture. The districts in the Cauvery delta had the lowest agricultural growth.”

Opposing the Bill, CPI-M’s Majeed Ariff said he smelt “political motivation” behind the introduction of the Bill and noted that implementing mechanism was silent on the proposed draft legislation.

H. Vasanthakumar of Congress mentioned that southern states had the most inter-state river water disputes.

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Moving the Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the draft legislation proposed to introduce a mechanism to resolve the water disputes amicably. Pixabay

Demanding a National Water Policy, TRS member Nama Nageswara Rao said he supported the Bill but mentioned that it was not “complete” to resolve the water disputes.

Pointing out that a total of 70,000 TMC (2,000 Million Cubic) water was going into sea while the irrigation requirement of the whole country was 40,000 TMC and 10,000 TMC was needed for drinking and industries, the MP said a proper policy would solve the problem.

Midhun Reddy of YSR Congress said river water disputes should be solved within six months and voiced support to the Bill.

Mahabali Singh of JD-U said that reservoirs should be built and maintained well and mentioned that if states don’t listen to tribunals, there was no point in this Bill.

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BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab said he had opposed the introduction of the Bill because states were not consulted but now he supported it.

“This Bill holds promise for tightening and improving adjudication. But some practical questions remain unaddressed. How does the Bill propose to address the challenge of implementing the Tribunals Award. Cauvery Water Tribunal award given in 2007 is yet to be implemented,” he said.

The Bill seeks to provide for a single standing Tribunal (with multiple benches) instead of multiple Tribunals, which shall consist of a Chairperson, a Vice Chairperson and not more than six members (three judicial and three experts).

The term of office of the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson shall be five years or till they attain the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier.

It is proposed that the assessors, who provide technical support to the Tribunal, shall be appointed from amongst experts serving in the Central Water Engineering Service not below the rank of Chief Engineer.

The total time period for adjudication of a water dispute has been fixed at a maximum of four and a half years. The decision of the Bench of the Tribunal shall be final and binding on the states concerned.

It also seeks to provide for out of court settlement of disputes. (IANS)