WASHINGTON, D.C. — On March 14 the Equality Act — a federal civil rights law that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, public accommodations and education — was introduced by Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, including out LGBTQ Sen. Tammy Baldwin and out LGBTQ Rep. David Cicilline.

Click on the image to download the entire proposed Equality Act legislation.

All 10 openly LGBTQ members of Congress have led efforts to pass the Equality Act. The two openly LGBTQ members of the U.S. Senate are Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema. The eight openly LGBTQ members of the U.S. Congress are Cicilline, Angie Craig, Sharice Davids, Katie Hill, Sean Patrick Maloney, Chris Pappas, Mark Pocan and Mark Takano.

The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles’ School of Law, reported that this legislation, if enacted, would protect millions of LGBTQ individuals across the country, especially workers, students and others who live in states without laws against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.

Analyses that the institute found were:

• Employment: There are approximately 8.1 million LGBTQ workers, ages 16 and older, in the U.S. An estimated 4.1 million of them live in states without statutes prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment.
• Education: There are over 3.5 million LGBTQ students, ages 15 and older, in the U.S. An estimated 2.1 million of them live in states without statutory protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination at school.
• Public Accommodations: There are approximately 13 million LGBTQ people, ages 13 and older, in the U.S. An estimated 6.9 million of them live in states without statutes prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in public accommodations.
• Housing: There are approximately 11 million LGBTQ adults, ages 18 and older, in the U.S. An estimated 5.6 million of them live in states without statutes prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing.
• Credit: An estimated 8 million LGBTQ adults live in states without statutes prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in credit.
• LGBTQ people would also gain protections under the Equality Act from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in jury service and federally funded programs.

The full report on the institute’s finding is available online.

“The Equality Act would make crystal clear that discrimination against LGBT people is prohibited under federal law and would help to remedy the widespread harassment and discrimination that LGBT people experience at work, school, and when trying to get basic services and goods,” said Jocelyn Samuels, executive director of the Williams Institute.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) stated that If passed, it would prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity at work, in the context of housing, credit, education and jury service. It would also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex in programs that receive federal funding and places of public accommodations.

“The harsh reality is that LGBTQ Americans still face real and persistent discrimination in their everyday lives,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The new pro-equality majority in Congress has the chance to finally ensure LGBTQ people’s rights are not determined by what side of a city or state line they live on. With the unprecedented backing of 70 percent of Americans, more than 280 members of Congress, 165 leading businesses and 288 organizations from across the country, now is the time to pass the bipartisan Equality Act.”

The organization is asking the community to sign on to their co-sponsor petition campaign online.
The Washington Post reported that the Equality Act could split the Republican Party. “This time, though, there’s a small chance the measure could clear the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-led Senate. With public opinion on LGBTQ issues changing, conservative lawmakers may have a difficult time presenting a united opposition to the legislation. … But the legislation is unpopular with constituencies that tend to back the Republican Party, and they are pushing back. According to that PRRI poll, nearly two-thirds of Republicans say small-business owners should be allowed to refuse service to LGBTQ people. More than 6 in 10 white evangelicals agree. … Religious conservatives have attacked the act as a potential violation of religious rights. … All this could put some more moderate Republicans, particularly those representing states that lean Democratic, in a tough position. … most GOP lawmakers have avoided taking a position on the legislation, surely mindful of the ramifications of doing so. And expressing opposition to the act is quite risky for those conservatives in more purple districts. And conservatives supporting the legislation could expose themselves to tough primaries, facing motivated Republican voters who have in some ways become increasingly conservative in the Trump era.”

LGBTQ Victory Institute President and CEO Annise Parker stated, “For more than a decade, LGBTQ members of Congress have been the strongest proponents and best advocates of legislation to end legalized discrimination against LGBTQ people in the United States. When lawmakers were on-the-fence, LGBTQ members of Congress shared stories and humanized the issue to change hearts and change votes. Today, Senator Baldwin and Representative David Cicilline played key roles in introducing the Equality Act, an enormous moment for our community and a continuation of that legacy of LGBTQ leadership on this issue. All ten openly LGBTQ members of Congress are ready to go on the offensive — with our allies — to ensure their colleagues understand this vote is a moral choice between fairness or discrimination.”

Like the Victory Institute, other organizations have voiced their support of the proposed legislation. They include the Equality Federation, Pride@Work, Democratic National Committee, National Partnership for Women & Families, Lambda Legal, GLMA, Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality California, Freedom for All Americans, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, among others.

Statements made by many of those supporters follow.

Democratic National Committee LGBTQ Media Director Lucas Acosta: “While the Trump administration prepares to implement the transgender military ban, House and Senate Democrats took a stand against hate and bigotry and reintroduced the Equality Act. For decades, LGBTQ people have been fighting to be treated fairly and with respect. Now, with support from the business community and Democrats in both houses of Congress, we have the opportunity to truly ensure that every LGBTQ person is protected from discrimination, no matter which side of a state border they live on. Democrats in Congress stand ready to fight with the LGBTQ community and support the Equality Act.”

National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra L. Ness: “For too long discrimination against people who are LGBTQ has been allowed in our nation’s workplaces, public spaces, schools, housing and elsewhere due to gaps in our civil rights laws. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Equality Act would expand on this to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and would also outlaw discrimination against women in public spaces and federally funded programs. … Voters elected the most diverse Congress in history and provided them with a mandate to pursue a progressive agenda. In addition, recent polls show that a growing majority of people in America support LGBTQ equality. We implore members of Congress to pass the Equality Act to make our country fairer and stronger.”

Lambda Legal Interim Chief Executive Officer Richard Burns: “Lambda Legal is so proud to support the Equality Act because it provides clear, comprehensive, and explicit protections in federal law. … Together, we can ensure everyone — workers and employers; patients and health care providers; customers and business owners — understands that LGBT Americans and their families deserve to be treated fairly regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

GLMA President Dr. Gal Mayer: “As healthcare providers and professionals, we have a unique role to play to ensure that the Equality Act gets passed. We need to talk about the extensive body of research that shows discrimination, stigma, and bias significantly and adversely impacts the physical and mental well-being of LGBTQ people. We need to lift up the voices of our patients and share their stories of discrimination. We need to be advocates for our community and fight to ensure that no one has to live in fear of harassment and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. GLMA is proud to be among the hundreds of organizations that have endorsed the Equality Act, which include other health professional associations like the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and National Association of Social Workers.”

Campaign for Southern Equality Communications Executive Director Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara: “The Equality Act is an essential path to the most basic legal protections for LGBTQ people 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. 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. Despite all of this, a majority of people in every state in the South support LGBTQ protections, and we’re seeing progress in Southern municipalities, from Alabama to West Virginia. More and more LGBTQ Southerners are coming out and experiencing growing support from their friends, family members, neighbors, and faith communities. This gives me great hope and shows just how ready the American public is for the Equality Act. It’s time for Congress to take action and pass federal protections now, because your rights in our country should not depend on your zip code.”

Equality California: “It is unacceptable that in 2019, our nation’s civil rights laws do not clearly and consistently protect millions of LGBTQ Americans from discrimination. You shouldn’t have to live in fear of being fired from your job, denied a home, kicked out of school or turned away by a doctor simply because of who you are or whom you love. An overwhelming bipartisan majority of Americans agree: LGBTQ people deserve to be treated equally under the law. Here in California, we’ve led the way in protecting the LGBTQ community and all Californians from discrimination. But which state you live in shouldn’t determine whether or not you have basic legal protections. It’s time to pass the Equality Act.”

Freedom for All Americans Chief Executive Officer Masen Davis: “This legislation is exactly the kind of federal protection LGBTQ Americans urgently need and that Freedom for All Americans will continue to advocate for. … Congress should act now to ensure that LGBTQ Americans can go about their lives with dignity and respect.”

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Director of the Advocacy and Action Department Stacey Long Simmons, Esq.: “As a Christian, Black, Bisexual woman, I need all of my identities protected under the law, not just one or two of them. That’s why the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund is fighting for non-discrimination laws that protect ‘all of me. all the time.’”

info: williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu. wapo.st/2Cq8uKS. victoryinstitute.org. hrc.org. equalityfederation.org. prideatwork.org. dnc.org, nationalpartnership.org. lambdalegal.org. glma.org. southernequality.org. eceqca.org. freedomforallamericans.org. thetaskforce.org.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.