Metro Weekly

Congressional Republicans block bill expanding credit access for LGBTQ business owners

Bill would have required collection of data to ensure that LGBTQ business owners are not being denied access to capital.

Ritchie Torres

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have blocked a measure designed to ensure LGBTQ-owned businesses have equal access to credit opportunities and the capital needed to grow their businesses and hire additional employees.

The LGBTQ Business Equal Credit Enforcement and Investment Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), one of nine out LGBTQ members of Congress, was brought to the floor by Democratic leaders under suspension of the rules, meaning it needed the support of two-thirds of the House to pass. But 177 Republicans, or 84% of the caucus, voted against the measure.

The bill had previously passed the House Financial Services Committee on a voice vote in May, and appeared to build on a decision made earlier this year, in which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act’s ban on sex-based discrimination would apply to instances where a person was denied credit or access to capital due to their LGBTQ status.

Had it passed, the measure would have clarified that Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a law passed following the 2008 economic downturn, must collect information on the self-identified sexual orientation and gender identity of the principal owners of small businesses, in addition to their sex, race, and ethnicity. That information is intended to help communities, government agencies and lenders identify community development needs and ensure small businesses can more easily access capital. 

The bill also would have added a definition for LGBTQ-owned businesses alongside minority-owned businesses under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. It also included a “sense of Congress” confirming that sexual orientation and gender identity are already covered under ECOA’s prohibitions on sex discrimination, while clarifying that sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity of principal business owners should be collected as three separate forms of information.

Democrats have attacked Republicans for being anti-LGBTQ, expressing outrage that a pro-LGBTQ bill would be defeated during Pride Month, which celebrates and commemorates the history of the LGBTQ rights movement and its progress since the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

“We have a vested interest in sustaining and strengthening LGBTQ small-businesses, and ensuring they have equal access to credit and small loans, so that they can operate in and uplift the American economy,” Torres said in a statement. “Small businesses are the beating heart of the American economy. But House Republicans, despite their claims to be pro-business, continue to obstruct and reject legislation that would help small business owners because of who they are and whom they love. They do this during Pride Month, no less.

“House Democrats will not relent on our efforts to deliver important protections to LGBTQ business owners and we will continue to fight equal treatment under the law,” Torres added.

See also: Most Republicans support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, survey finds

The bill’s defeat comes at a time when LGBTQ advocates are desperately appealing to U.S. senators to pass the Equality Act, which would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in various aspects of life, including in credit and lending.

Unfortunately for advocates, the insistence of Senate Democrats on keeping the filibuster intact means that any legislation deemed “controversial” — as almost all bills pertaining to LGBTQ identity have been — needs 60 votes to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down vote. As a result, any LGBTQ legislation is unlikely to pass, as there are not 10 Senate Republicans who would vote for a bill that defines anti-LGBTQ discrimination as a form of sex discrimination.

There are currently an estimated 1.4 million LGBTQ-owned businesses in the United States, which contribute more than $1.7 trillion to the nation’s economy, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Had Torres’ bill passed, these small businesses could have been assured they will not be discriminated against when seeking credit to expand their operations, renovate their existing space, or hire additional employees, or when trying to contract with federal, state, or local governments for the purposes of providing certain goods or services.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a statement chastising Republicans for blocking passage of the bill.

“Passing this uncontroversial bill to help small businesses stay afloat during a pandemic should be a no-brainer,” the statement read. “Sadly, no attack is too low for this House Republican Conference, not even attacking LGBTQ-owned small businesses during Pride Month.”

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