Senate Majority Leader Schumer: We Will Pass the Equality ActBy Shane Stahl • February 8, 2022 • 3:14 pm
On January 28, Freedom for All Americans joined our partners at New Pride Agenda and The NYC LGBT Center to host an event featuring remarks from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Below, find a video of the Senator and a transcript of his remarks. Our thanks to all who attended and streamed the event live. To contact your senators about passing the Equality Act, visit tweet.act4equality.us.
View this post on Instagram
Elisa, thank you very much, from Brooklyn to the Bronx; and I want to first say our two speakers, Sean and Shear, were just fabulous and inspiring. I also apologize for being late — I don’t usually dress this formally when I come to the Center but today we had the funeral of Jason Rivera, one of the young police officers who was shot — and that pushed back the whole schedule so I appreciate your indulgence.
So it’s great to be here, just great to be here at the Center once again. I want to start by thanking Glennda and the Center for opening up their home for us today; and for the decades of service fostering and empowering the LGBTQ community.
I also want to thank the organizations here. We’ve got a great amalgamation here, everyone coming today to join the fight and strengthen one another as we make that fight. And so let me thank the New Pride Agenda, Freedom for All Americans, Destination Tomorrow, the Ali Forney Center, SAGE, and so many others in the crowd. Thank you for the work you do every single day to bring equality, true equality, to America.
I’m also proud to represent New York State, where we have some of the strongest laws in the nation protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. And I want to thank my colleagues here today who are from New York State and the federal government, for their advocacy here. Jerry Nadler, who has been such a leader in the House and chair of the Judiciary Committee (if I’d stayed in the House, I would have been head of the Judiciary Committee…), Representative Tom Suozzi from Long Island and Queens – and two great representatives from this area: Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Deborah Glick; and the new council member with whom I had the pleasure of having a cup of coffee with a little while ago and he’s going to a great job on LGBTQ issues and all other issues, Erik Bottcher.
And most recently as you all know, because of the efforts of so many people in this room, our state passed GENDA — the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act, which made it clear that transgender people are explicitly protected from discrimination and harassment, because as it’s been pointed out they are subject to so much marginalization and even violence. So New York State is great.
And this center of course is steps from the site of the historic Stonewall Riots that jump started our modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in America. And this community decided that silence equals death. Nothing less stark than that equation — silence equals death. The world started to listen.
And the dedication to fighting against these injustices have a familiar parallel to what’s going on now. We remember and celebrate the legacy of all those throughout our country’s history who have taught us the importance of embracing dignity, but at the same time, the power of resistance. Because unfortunately, no one’s going to just roll over and let equality happen. It’s been such a long hard struggle in America in so many different ways — we’re seeing with the voting rights struggle we’re having in the Senate right now.
And we remember and celebrate. We remember the blood, sweat, tears, and activism in their struggle for equal treatment. And the progress they ultimately achieved on behalf of not just themselves but so many others. So we honor those champions of change. We commit ourselves when we hear and listen to their histories and their struggles. of weeding out injustice and moving closer to our nation’s highest ideals.
When I march in the Pride Parade, I always say in my little megaphone: The arc of history is long but it bends in the direction of justice. And we all believe that, or we might not be here. It will bend in the direction of justice. But only if we fight for justice. Only if we fight for justice. Dr. King, of course, his life is a legacy to that.
Unfortunately, though, the transformative change we’ve seen in New York City has not caught on everywhere. We’re regressing right now, folks. The nasty, angry part of America is pushing us in directions.America should never go.
Thirty GOP state legislatures are passing bills to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and specifically target children based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That is despicable. It’s not American. But it’s there. We can’t ignore it — we have to fight it.
The shocking gap in our nation’s laws affects 13 million LGBTQ+ Americans. New Yorkers — even though we have good laws in this state and they could probably get a little better, I agree with that and I’m sure Deborah and Brad do too. But New Yorkers who travel for work, New Yorkers who go on vacation, New Yorkers who go see loved ones across state lines, are all subject to these 30 nasty legislative efforts. Everyone, everyone, everyone should be able to participate in all aspects of daily life with dignity and respect, from education to housing to family planning to workplace to adoption to immigration. Discsrimination against LGBTQ people remains a serious, serious problem that demands Congress’ attention.
I am committed. I am committed to passing federal legislation to update the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections for all LGBTQ+ Americans. That’s why we proudly re-introduced the Equality Act in the Senate: essential, urgent, long overdue legislation that will move us closer to a society where Americans are treated equally under law. Congress must pass the Equality Act so LGBTQ+ and queer Americans will no longer have to face discrimination in the most basic areas of life. This isn’t just something that happens once in a while if you’re LGBTQ+ — it happens far too often.
As many of you know, the legislation is personal for me as well as millions of American families across this country. Just six years ago, LGBTQ Americans like my daughter won the right to marry who they love. She and her wife have a great life now — we have a ways to go, but because we have marriage equality. And I came out for marriage equality long before I knew my daughter was gay — she was about 10 years old back then. And it shows you.
My father who just passed away two months ago taught me that if you do the right thing, you will be rewarded. My early support for marriage equality not only did the right thing for America, but did the right thing for my family. So I’m proud of that.
My daughter and her wife know that they still face discrimination and they talk about it. It’s not just the actual discrimination they face, but what might be happening as they imagine even though they don’t face it directly themselves. It holds them back. And that’s another aspect that we have to address. The Equality Act would make sure that my daughter can continue living her life with the security and dignity of knowing that she won’t face basic discrimination because of who she is and that our society ratifies that equality in law. In law. Not just verbally, but in law.
No LGBTQ or queer American should ever face discrimination because of who they are or who they love. When the Equality Act was passed by the House last Congress, it retained bipartisan support winning over the votes of Democrats and Republicans. But until we took the majority, we couldn’t even say that we could put the Equality Act on the floor because that’s in the Majority Leader’s power and Mitch McConnell wouldn’t do it. And I always thought one of the reasons he wouldn’t do it is he knew the heat his members would get from their constituencies if they voted no, so he preferred to just sweep it under the rug. But that’s not going to happen anymore because we have a Democratic majority in the Senate.
We have the opportunity to act on this critical civil rights legislation among several other bills that have been long neglected in the Senate. The legislation passed the U.S. House twice as I mentioned, but it just received its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I’m hopeful that just like in the House the Equality Act will get Republican votes and pass through the Senate with bipartisan support. There’s already overwhelming support amongst Democrats. We’re continuing to engage with Republicans and you should too. The public’s on our side even in the more conservative states. So engage them in hopes of gaining support from colleagues across the aisle.
Updating our federal civil rights laws to include protections for LGBTQ Americans must be a priority for all of us, and it should not be a partisan question. It should be a human question. LGBTQ rights are human rights, plain and simple. It’s about who we are as Americans. It’s about fairness, justice, and treating others as we would want to be treated. It is urgent, urgent for so many of our fellow Americans. So I hope you’ll all join me in spreading the word about getting this legislation over the line as soon as possible. Our fight is now engaged. Let’s keep going. Let’s struggle. Let’s win.