Rep. Al Green scolds GOP over Equality Act: ‘You used God to enslave my foreparents’

Green pushed back against Republican arguments invoking religion as a reason to kill the bill that protects LGBTQ rights.

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Congressman Al Green, who represents Texas’ Ninth District, delivered an impassioned speech on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday, where he spoke out in support of the Equality Act, which would establish federal LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections. 

In his speech, Green pushed back against Republican arguments that invoked God and religion as a reason to kill the bill. 

Democratic Texas Rep. Al Green gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday, where he spoke out in support of the Equality Act. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“And still I rise, Mr. Speaker,” Green began, quoting late, great poetess Maya Angelou. 

“You used God to enslave my foreparents. You used God to segregate me in schools,” Green intoned. “You used God to put me in the back of the bus. Have you no shame? God created every person in this room. Are you saying that God made a mistake?”

He referenced his fellow Democratic congressman, gay Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, who, last week, helped introduce the Equality Act.

“This is not about God, it’s about men who choose to discriminate against other people because they have the power to do so,” Green continued.  “My record will not show that I voted against Mr. Cicilline having his rights. My record will show that when I had the opportunity to deliver liberty and justice for all, I voted for rights for all.”

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Green’s speech was in response to Republican Florida Rep. Greg Steube, who, in his debate argument, said transgender people are an “offense” to God. 

“A woman must not wear men’s clothing nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this,” Steube read from Deuteronomy 22:5 in the Bible. 

“When men or women claim to be able to choose their own sexual identity,” he said, “they’re making a statement that God did not know what he was doing when he created them.”

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Green’s remarks garnered applause from his fellow Democrats. Additionally, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler said, “what any religious tradition describes as God’s will is no concern of this Congress.” 

The first clause in the U.S. Bill of Rights states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The establishment clause is often described in metaphor as “separation of church and state,” which, according to, is “the principle that the government must maintain an attitude of neutrality toward religion. The First Amendment not only allows citizens the freedom to practice any religion of their choice but also prevents the government from officially recognizing or favoring any religion.”

The Equality Act, which amended the Civil Rights Act from 1964 to additionally provide protections for LGBTQ Americans, passed Thursday, winning unanimous support from House Democrats and votes from three Republicans.

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