By Tim Fitzsimons

The NAACP, the country’s oldest African-American civil rights organization, publicly endorsed the Equality Act, a federal LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill.

“We support what it does — and we support it now,” Hilary Shelton, the organization's D.C. bureau director, told NBC News on Friday. “It’s important that it gets through.”

Shelton said the group had previously endorsed the bill in meetings with two of its sponsors, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.

The NAACP, which was founded in 1909, was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin; enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote; and required equal access to public places and employment.

Reintroduced in Congress last week, the Equality Act would modify that same Civil Rights Act to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes.

“We believe the same protections that we have worked for so hard over the 110 years of the NAACP should be extended to all Americans, particularly members of the LGBTQ community,” Shelton said.

Shelton pointed to previous NAACP support for LGBTQ discrimination protections in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and in the Affordable Care Act. The group also supported expanding hate crimes legislation to cover crimes committed because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The organization’s support came into question earlier this week after Gregory T. Angelo, the former president of gay conservative group Log Cabin Republicans, implied the NAACP was not behind the bill. In an opinion piece titled "Don't Fall for the 'Equality Act,'" Angelo stated that "African American legacy civil rights groups are absent" from an "exhaustive list" of organizations supporting the Equality Act. He specifically cited the NAACP.

Angelo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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