Lambda Legal Applauds Passage of Equality Act by U.S. House of Representatives

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February 25, 2021
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Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the Equality Act. The vote was 224-206, with three Republicans joining all the Democratic representatives in favor of 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 clarifies sex discrimination laws to prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education, and other areas, and explicitly extends sex discrimination protections to public accommodations and federally funded programs.

Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings issued the following statement:

“Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, yet again, the Equality Act, as it has done in years past. And, once again, the Equality Act now goes to the U.S. Senate. We hope and trust this year, it will finally get the hearing in the Senate that it so richly deserves. After years of ignoring this important legislation, the Senate needs to take care of business and pass the Equality Act.

Since the introduction of the first Equality Act in 1974 – nearly fifty years ago --, LGBTQ advocates and our supporters in Congress have been fighting to win explicit protections for LGBTQ people in federal nondiscrimination laws. The time has come to enact those protections: 47 years is long enough to wait for protection of our basic rights as citizens.

LGBTQ people across the country still remain vulnerable to discrimination daily due to the lack of comprehensive federal protections, as evidenced by the more than 5,000 requests for help Lambda Legal receives on it Legal Help Desk each year. The Equality Act not only fills in those gaps, but also brings our civil rights laws into the 21st century by extending protection against discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion to places that aren’t currently covered by our civil rights laws, to establishments like retail stores, transportation services like taxis and Ubers, and service providers like accountants. Today, the House took that important step. It is now time, in fact way past time, for the Senate to do the same.”

The Equality Act makes 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.

The Equality Act enjoys bipartisan support in Congress. It was introduced by U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), with dozens of co-sponsors.

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