The House of Representatives approved a bill on June 24 that would collect data on small business loans given to LGBTQ-owned businesses.
The LGBTQ Business Equal Credit Enforcement and Investment Act, or HR 1443, led by out gay Bronx Congressmember Ritchie Torres, passed by a 252-176 margin. Lawmakers managed to pass the measure just weeks after unsuccessfully trying to pass it through an expedited legislative procedure called Suspension of the Rules, which stipulates that two-thirds of the House must approve it to pass. On the first try on June 15, 177 Republicans voted against the legislation, effectively blocking it. However, the latest voting tally shows that Republican lawmaker Lee M. Zeldin of Long Island is now backing the bill after he previously voted against it.
Republican lawmakers in New York still opposing the legislation on the second attempt included House Representatives Claudia Tenney of upstate New York; Elise M. Stefanik, whose northern New York district borders Canada; and Chris Jacobs of western New York.
According to the bill’s text, HR 1443 would amend the Equality Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) to ban credit discrimination and require “LGBTQ-owned” businesses to be included next to “minority-owned” businesses whenever mentioned in the ECOA. It would also require “sexual orientation and gender identity” to be mentioned after “sex” in the ECOA.
Torres applauded lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for approving the bill, which was first introduced in February.
“This bill would make credit more accessible, credit laws more enforceable, and creditors more accountable,” Torres said in a written statement after the vote. “It represents a triumph of transparency in the service of economic opportunity for all, regardless of who you are and whom you love. We have a vested interest in sustaining and strengthening these businesses with equal access to credit, which is the beating heart of the American economy. I am proud to lead the effort to deliver results for LGBTQ small business owners as we continue to rebuild our economy.”
Torres has worked on legislation pertaining to LGBTQ small businesses dating back to his time in the New York City Council. Two years ago, he spearheaded legislation requiring New York City’s Department of Small Business Services to certify LGBTQ-owned businesses and publish a directory of those businesses. This year, the Department of Small Business Services announced that queer-owned small enterprises would begin receiving access to city contracts, educational programs, and other benefits.
Out gay Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, the lead sponsor of the Equality Act in the lower house, said this is a step toward eliminating anti-LGBTQ bias in financial institutions.
“The Equality Caucus is proud to see movement on another of our legislative priorities, The LGBTQ Business Equal Credit Enforcement and Investment Act,” Cicilline said in a written statement. “For far too long, programs designed to assist minority communities have left LGBTQ people behind. That is beginning to change following today’s vote in the House. I thank [Equality Caucus] Co-Chair Ritchie Torres for his tireless efforts to move this forward. I look forward to continuing to deliver results for our community this Pride Month.”
Justin Nelson and Chance Mitchell, co-founders of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which focuses on the queer business community, said collecting LGBTQ-specific data is critical to dismantling unequal lending practices.
“We cannot fix what we do not track, and so we must pass HR 1443 so America’s economy can achieve its full potential,” Nelson and Mitchell said in a statement. “America’s 1.4 million LGBT business owners add more than $1.7 trillion dollars and tens of thousands of new jobs to the US economy every year, despite the obstacles they face in access to capital, contracts, and more.”
Last month, the legislation cleared the Financial Services Committee following LGBTQ-inclusive changes announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In March, the CFPB noted that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act’s ban on sex discrimination would cover sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. This change came in response to the Supreme Court’s decision last year prohibiting LGBTQ employment discrimination.
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