Today, U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced the re-introduction of the Equality Act, federal legislation that will update existing federal nondiscrimination laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act, to confirm that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is unlawful discrimination based on sex. The Equality Act codifies that existing federal sex discrimination laws prohibit anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education, and other areas, and adds sex discrimination protections to the federal laws covering public accommodations and federally funded programs.
Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings issued the following statement:
“Lambda Legal applauds the re-introduction of the Equality Act, long past-due federal legislation which provides clear, comprehensive, and explicit protections for LGBTQ+ people in federal law. In a year when we have seen unprecedented, coordinated attacks by states on LGBTQ+ people, especially on transgender and non-binary youth, the need for the Equality Act could not be clearer. And it can’t happen soon enough: the LGBTQ+ community has been asking Congress for explicit protections since Reps. Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY) first introduced the Equality Act of 1974, 49 years ago, and nearly fifty years of waiting for federal action is long enough.
“As has been made abundantly clear this year, LGBTQ+ people across the country remain vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis and too often have little recourse. Without comprehensive federal protections, the basic rights of LGBTQ+ people vary state to state. This year, we have read countless stories of LGBTQ+ individuals and families trying to flee states that are intent on harming them, and our Help Desk has been fielding calls nonstop this year as state-led attacks on trans and non-binary youth ramped up at a frenzied pace. While some families can afford to relocate, many cannot. The current patchwork of protections for LGBTQ+ people is inadequate and unjust, which is why we need the absolute clarity of the Equality Act, and we need it now.”
The Equality Act makes clear and explicit that federal law comprehensively prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It also updates the public accommodations law to add protections from discrimination in public places and services on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion where those protections are not already in existing law, such as for retail stores, transportation services like airports, taxis and bus stations, and service providers like accountants.
The current version of the Equality Act was first introduced in 2015 by U.S. Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and John Lewis (D-GA) and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
If you feel you have experienced discrimination, please contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk.