Equality Act Introduced in Congress

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March 13, 2019
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Today, Lambda Legal praised 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) for introducing H.R. 5, the Equality Act, in the 116th Congress.

This bipartisan legislation 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 bill agrees with the many court decisions which have concluded that discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, education, and credit violates the federal sex discrimination bans.

It will add protection against sex, sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination to the federal laws covering public accommodations and federally funded programs.

“Lambda Legal is so proud to support the Equality Act because it provides clear, comprehensive, and explicit protections in federal law,” said Richard Burns, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Lambda Legal. “With the reintroduction of this bipartisan legislation, equality is on the horizon.  Still, we must continue to defend our hard-won civil rights from almost daily attacks in our courts as well. Lambda Legal’s litigation has led an increasing number of courts and agencies across the country to recognize that LGBT people are protected under existing sex discrimination laws. This bill is a belt and suspenders that ensures these protections reach every member of our community nationally. Today’s bill takes a giant step forward towards that goal. 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.”

LGBT people across the country remain vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis and too often have little recourse. The current patchwork of protections for LGBT people across the country is confusing and inadequate.

The Equality Act will make clear 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.

It also includes protections for those who associate with others who are targets of unlawful discrimination (for example, children of LGBT people). Additionally, it will prohibit discrimination against LGBT people and women in programs that receive federal funding.

Burns continues, "The Equality Act is essential because, while the legal landscape is evolving rapidly, LGBT Americans continue to face appalling, unjust discrimination in many aspects of their everyday lives. We know this from the thousands of calls Lambda Legal’s Help Desk gets each year from all corners of our country. Specifically, we know that workplace discrimination is one of the most frequent problems that LGBT people face. Workplace equality has been a top priority for Lambda Legal since our founding more than 40 years ago, and remains one today. We thank Senators Merkley, Baldwin, and Booker as well as Representatives Cicilline and Fitzpatrick for their leadership, and we urge all members of Congress to act swiftly to pass this bill into law to ensure full equality for the LGBT community."

Lambda Legal provides resources for people who experience anti-LGBT discrimination. Check out Lambda Legal’s Know Your Rights Workplace resource page: http://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/workplace

If you feel you have experienced discrimination, please contact Lambda Legal's Help Desk at lambdalegal.org/help