Today we re-introduced the Equality Act, a comprehensive bill that will add protections for the LGBTQ community to existing civil rights statutes. This bill, when passed, will provide LGBTQ people and our families with comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federal funding, access to credit and jury service. The bill is broad, sweeping and necessary.
The Equality Act was originally introduced in the summer of 2015, after the US Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Obergefell. But even now, almost two years since marriage equality became the law of the land, LGBTQ people and our families remain vulnerable across all aspects of our daily lives. After eight years of unprecedented progress under the Obama Administration in the movement for full equality, we find ourselves on the cusp of a major rollback of much of what we’ve accomplished. In just over 100 days, the current Administration has – among other things – withdrawn guidance requiring that schools permit transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity, diluted protections for LGBTQ people accessing homeless shelters, erased LGBTQ issues from various federal agency websites, removed questions pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity from a number of federal surveys, and elevated countless rabidly anti-LGBTQ people to positions within the Administration – in several federal agencies and even inside the White House.
In addition to the challenges we face from the current Administration, LGBTQ people and families still lack explicit protections under federal law. We can get married on Saturday night and when we return to our everyday lives on Monday morning we can still be fired from our jobs, evicted from our homes, denied service in a restaurant, or our children can still be bullied in school simply because we of who we are, who we love, how our families were formed, and what our parents look like. Now more than ever, we need comprehensive federal protections that are clear and consistent.
We continue to see the introduction of anti-LGBTQ legislation at both the state and federal levels as well as an increase in anti-LGBTQ litigation, most of which uses religion to justify discrimination against our community. The Equality Act, when passed, will afford the exact same protections as other covered groups by simply adding sexual orientation and gender identity into existing federal laws. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is perhaps the most significant piece of civil rights legislation ever enacted. It outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (in most contexts except for public accommodations), and national origin. It is not easy to amend existing laws, and with the re-introduction of the Equality Act comes a tremendous responsibility. The LGBTQ community intersects with every class of people already protected by the 1964 law and we must work closely with our partners and allies in other civil rights communities to ensure that protections already afforded through the Civil Rights Act are not in any way diminished by our attempts to expand its coverage. It is only by working together with our civil rights allies that LGBTQ people will come that much closer to true legal and lived equality.