Landmark LGBT Equality Act Introduced into U.S. Congress

By Melanie Nathan, July, 23, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.14.06 AMThe Equality Act, was introduced today by U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) to provide protections against discrimination for LGBT Americans in all aspects of life, including housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, and education.

Finally, federal comprehensive nondiscrimination protection legislation has been introduced into Congress for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, (LGBT) people in the United States of America.  Yes its hard to believe that it has taken this long. However, though many grassroots activists have been advocating for such legislation for a long time, it has only now been introduced and is clearly an imperative follow-up on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality in all 50 of the United States.

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) notes that  this comprehensive legislation is aimed at ensuring that no one ever faces bias in America based on who they are or who they love.

A statement from TLDEF Staff Attorney Ethan Rice, notes

“We applaud congressional leaders for introducing this landmark legislation. The Equality Act is vitally important to creating a nation where LGBT people are treated fairly in all areas of their lives including, on the job, in their homes, at the places they visit, and in matters that affect their finances.

“On the heels of the historic Supreme Court ruling that extended marriage protections to LGBT Americans, the Equality Act is the next big step on the road to full Equality. LGBT people continue to face a patchwork of state and local laws that leave them vulnerable to being fired from their jobs, barred from public places, and at risk for losing their homes, among other biases. Transgender people in particular face even greater disparities in employment, housing, public accommodation, health care, and education.

“It is time for Congress to act once and for all, to ensure that LGBT Americans are clearly protected under federal law. We will continue to speak out and urge passage of the Equality Act.”

Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden issued the following statement today in support of the introduction:

“This historic legislation would provide clear and vital protections from discrimination for LGBT Americans in all areas of life, from the workplace to the public marketplace. Despite last month’s historic Supreme Court decision, many LGBT people and their families live in constant fear that discrimination could lurk around any corner at school, in the office, or on Main Street. Modernizing our federal nondiscrimination laws to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and, where currently excluded, sex, will bring our laws into the 21st century and ensure that all Americans, including our LGBT friends and neighbors, are judged on their merits, can provide for their families, and live free from fear. The progressive cause in our country has always been about ensuring people can live free of fear regardless of who they are. This bill promises to be a major priority for the LGBT movement and broader progressive community moving forward, and CAP applauds Sens. Merkley, Booker, and Baldwin and Rep. Cicilline for their leadership on behalf of all Americans.”

Many LGBT people still face discrimination in so many aspects of their lives and this legislation is crucial to remedy the pervasive discrimination.  Yet we live in a country where even women have yet to receive full equality legislation through the U.S. Congress.  For as long as Republicans continue to dominate and hold the majority in both houses, accomplishing passage is going to be a battle. There is a clear disconnect between the emerging pro gay evolution, a younger generation which supports full equality vs. the Republican establishment which dominates Congress and the current presidential campaign.  The latter have spoken clearly against marriage equality and the recent SCOTUS decision, indicating that it is going to be difficult to muster enough Republican support in the current Congress. However the establishment of this benchmark for full equality is long overdue and a critical step forward.

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