Here’s Why Congress Needs to Pass the Equality Act

Last week, Democratic legislators in both the United States House and the Senate reintroduced the Equality Act, vital legislation that would explicitly protect LGBTQ rights through federal law.

The Equality Act is designed to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964†to add to its protected classes and protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It would cover discrimination in education, employment, housing, credit, selection for federal jury service and public accommodations.

The legislation would also prohibit federal funds being used for discriminatory purposes. It is worth noting that many classes are currently protected via various federal mechanisms, for example women’s rights, race, religion and disability.

Introduced this past week with over†240 co-sponsors in Congress, the Equality Act also has massive corporate support from some of America’s biggest businesses, including Amazon, Google, American Airlines and Whirlpool.

While vital for all LGBTQ Americans, the Equality Act is particularly important for trans and gender variant citizens who face some of the most widespread discrimination.

“The Equality Act is the long overdue next chapter in our nation’s struggle against the forces of prejudice, animus, and hate,”†Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “The introduction of this bill marks a historic opportunity to improve the lives of tens of millions of people across the country, including nearly 2 million transgender people. Too many of us endure hatred, prejudice, and violence throughout our lives, often waged by those who feel their bias is legally sanctioned by our government’s inaction. The Equality Act is the shield we need to protect transgender lives and defend the right of millions of Americans to live, labor, and learn without fear of stigma or persecution.”

Here’s a brief breakdown of why the Equality Act is so important.

1. No Ifs or Buts, Federal Law Would Cover LGBT Americans

The Obama administration previously argued that existing sex discrimination laws cover LGBT Americans. The logic to this is sound: Whether or not Congress intentionally sought to protect LGBTQ Americans (it didn’t) is beside the point. You cannot discriminate on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity without also discriminating against them on the basis of sex expectations.

To put it another way, all anti-LGBT discrimination is, at its heart, discrimination that comes from the perpetrator’s dislike that the victim doesn’t match preconceived notions about what a man or woman should be, should look like or whom they should love.

Despite several federal agencies and the federal courts agreeing with this standpoint, the Trump administration has rolled back those protections.†It’s able to do so precisely because current civil rights laws do not explicitly protect LGBT Americans. The Equality Act would change that.

2. The Numbers Show the Equality Act†Would Make a Big Difference to LGBT Americans

The California-based think tank the Williams Institute has crunched the numbers on just how meaningful the Equality Act could be for LGBTQ Americans, and the figures make for impressive reading.

Currently, 4.1 million Americans live in states without laws that protect them from anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. A further four million would have state protections bolstered by creating these explicit federal statutes.

In addition, there are over 3.5 million LGBT students age 15 and over in the United States. Around 2.1 million currently live in states that do not prevent anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our schools. That’s a massive burden as students go into higher education. Nearly 7 million students aged 13 and over live in states without public accommodations protections.†A further 5.6 million adults†are in states without sexual orientation or gender identity protections in housing

These numbers make it clear that†LGBTQ Americans face multiple stress factors as they attempt to even get an education, let alone secure employment and a place to live. The Equality Act could change that.

3. The Equality Act Reaffirms Principles of Fair Religious Freedom for All

A majority of Americans now support LGBTQ rights, while a majority in every major religious denomination in the US now supports protections in housing and the workplace.

For the first time,†a majority of Evangelicals now support civil rights protections for LGBTQ Americans. This matters, because ultra conservatives in Congress have often hidden behind supposed religious concerns that a vote for LGBTQ protections would anger their religious base. It may well do if they are on the far right, but LGBTQ equality is no longer controversial, even among religious demographics who previously†were staunchly opposed.

Indeed, the†National Association of Evangelicals†has in principle supported†the Equality Act, believing that it in no way impinges on religious freedom, thanks to the comprehensive religious freedom statutes already in place. The Council for Christian†Colleges & Universities believes the Equality Act is lacking religious freedom protections,†but instead of opposing it outright, as it has been in the past, it offers that tandem religious freedom exemptions would answer its concerns.†

The good news is, the Equality Act actually does this, because it highlights that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act must be respected. Constitutional religious†freedom†would not only be left unchanged but would be further highlighted as a result of this legislation.

What the Equality Act would do is prevent the RFRA†from being used as a way to circumvent civil rights protections.†Because the secular sphere does not allow for the establishment of religion, this would help to clarify the line where the right to religious expression lies and where civil rights for others begins. This would help reaffirm that America is designed to be a secular nation which balances fundamental rights with religious freedom for all.

Take Action!

Throw your support behind the Equality Act. Join over 13,500 Care2 members, and†sign and share this petition and ensure this vital piece of legislation is signed into law.

If†you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youíll find Care2ís vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

40 comments

Janis K
Janis K4 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Lisa M
Lisa M6 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M6 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M6 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M6 days ago

Thanks.

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Karen H
Karen H13 days ago

I keep pressuring my misrepresentative in Congress, but it seems futile. After the Pulse shooting, Brian Mast tweeted a picture of the list of Pulse victims' names and said they should be remembered. BUT he didn't refer to the LGBT community, which leads me to believe he doesn't care about us and wishes we'd just go away. Fat chance of that, Brian.

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Thomas M
Thomas M15 days ago

Thank you for posting

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danii p
danii p19 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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danii p
danii p19 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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danii p
danii p19 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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