Federal LGBT Non-Discrimination Protections Introduced in Congress with Bipartisan Equality ActBy Adam Polaski • May 2, 2017 • 11:40 am
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the Equality Act of 2017 this morning. The legislation would protect LGBT Americans from discrimination across virtually every area of daily life, including employment, housing, and public accommodations. The bipartisan legislation was first introduced in 2015, but in the intervening years the urgent need for comprehensive, federal nondiscrimination protections has become clearer than ever before. Opponents of LGBT equality have filed more than 400 bills in states across the country in just the last two years, seeking to undermine legal equality for LGBT people in areas including adoption, marriage, and access to basic public services and businesses.
Kasey Suffredini, Freedom for All Americans’ Chief Program Officer, said today:
“We’re seeing the legal equality and even the dignity of LGBT people come under attack in states across the country. Winning comprehensive and explicit nondiscrimination protections at the federal level is an essential task facing our movement, and the introduction of the Equality Act is an important step forward. We have a lot of work ahead of us – from raising public awareness about why nondiscrimination protections are so urgently needed, particularly for transgender Americans; to growing support for equality at the state level. Freedom for All Americans is in this work for the long haul, and we won’t stop until we achieve an America where every single LGBT person can live free from discrimination, no matter what state they call home.”
Victories in the courts and advancements at the state level in recent years have expanded the number of states fully protecting LGBT people from discrimination to 18 and the District of Columbia, but more than 50 percent of LGBT Americans still live in states lacking comprehensive protections. The patchwork of existing protections underscores the urgent need to grow momentum and secure comprehensive protections at the state level.
“We believe that advancing equality at the state level will demonstrate the urgent need for action at the federal level. Progress can take many forms – from positive court rulings to securing wins like the transgender public accommodations law in Massachusetts last year. That means that every single advocate across this country has a role to play. These are challenging times for the LGBT community and many others, but the Equality Act is a reminder that we stand united and share a common goal: full and explicit legal equality for all LGBT people.”
The Equality Act’s introduction comes as rumors continue to circulate that President Donald Trump is considering an executive order undermining equality for LGBT people. In late January, the Trump White House said the president “continues to be respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, just as he was throughout the election.” Since that comment, however, Trump revoked non-binding legal guidance meant to protect the safety and dignity of transgender students, and the White House has refused to rule out future executive actions.