Even though most Americans support LGBTQ rights, the federal government still has a way to go. Laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act have even made it legal for businesses to turn customers away if they’re not heterosexual or cisgender, and the Supreme Court has stood by companies who have done so. But NBC News reports that yesterday, March 13th, Congressional Democrats reintroduced the Equality Act to prevent anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
NBC notes the Equality Act was first proposed in 2015 after a similar bill was introduced in 1974. If passed, it would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of classes protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to a press release from the ACLU, it would make it illegal to refuse to hire LGBTQ people, deny them housing, or ban them from public spaces. The bill would also prevent the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from being used to justify anti-LGBTQ discrimination (as in what happened in the notorious Masterpiece Cakeshop case). In short, this would be a huge, long-overdue victory for the LGBTQ community.
NBC notes that Representative David Cicilline, one of 10 gay lawmakers in Congress, was the bill’s primary sponsor in the House. Senator Tammy Baldwin, another gay legislator, was also among those introducing the bill. In an op-ed that Cicilline and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote for The Advocate, they pledged to continue to advance LGBTQ rights even beyond the Equality Act.
Currently, the Movement Advancement Project notes that only 21 states and Washington, D.C. have laws on the books that prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination. But passing the Equality Act would mean that discrimination is outlawed everywhere in the U.S. Of course, with a Republican majority in the senate, it’s possible that the bill might fail, but the reintroduction of this legislation is still worth celebrating.
LGBTQ rights are human rights, and we need our government to recognize this fact. If you feel strongly about this bill, contact your elected officials and tell them to sign it.