Democrats on Wednesday (13 March), with some bipartisan support, are re-introducing the Equality Act to Congress for the third time.
This bill seeks to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected traits. If passed, it would prohibit discrimination in various areas, including employement, housing, public accommodation, and more on a national level.
When nearly half of all LGBTI people in the US live in states without workplace protections, such legislation becomes especially pressing.
Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), as well as Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) are re-introducing the bill today.
When Democrats took back the majority in the House of Representatives following last year’s midterm elections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to make the Equality Act a ‘top priority’.
There is mass support for the Equality Act, both from legislators as well as the American people.
In Congress, 280 legislators support the bill, while across the US, a recent survey revealed nearly 70% of people support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTI people.
The Campaign of Southern Equality praised the bill for its importance to LGBTI people living in the South.
‘Right now, more than a third of LGBTQ people in the United States call the South their home, but no Southern state has passed statewide protections from anti-LGBTQ discrimination,’ said Executive Director Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara.
‘On top of this, most of the anti-LGBTQ bills filed each year are filed in Southern states, and we continue to hear story after story of LGBTQ people who are fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and denied service because of who they are.’
Several Democrats currently running in the 2020 presidential election are vocal about their support for the Equality Act as well.
History of the Equality Act
In the face of a discriminatory and cruel administration, the Equality Act feels more critical than ever.
Legislators introduced the first version of it in 1974, only including sexual orientation in various areas of life. Previously, the Equality Act as it exists today, including both sexual orientation and gender identity, has been introduced to Congress twice. The first time was in 2015 and then again in 2017.
Both years the bill died in committee.
With the Democratic majority in the House, it is very likely the Equality Act will pass there. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), however, has to call a vote in the Senate for it to pass. It is unclear if he will do so.