Congressional Democrats on Wednesday reintroduced the Equality Act, which, if signed into law, would be the first federal law protecting LGBTQ+ Americans.
“In most states in this country, a gay couple can be married on Saturday, post their wedding photos to Instagram on Sunday, and lose their jobs or get kicked out of their apartments on Monday just because of who they are,” said David Cicilline(D-RI), the bill’s main sponsor. “We are reintroducing the Equality Act in order to fix this.”
The bill would modify the existing federal laws—the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government—to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs and jury service.
The bill also seeks to update federal law to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the list of protected classes in public accommodation in addition to expanding the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, legal, transportation and health care services. Further, the Equality Act would establish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—a 1994 law aimed at protecting religious liberty—cannot be used to enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
“The new pro-equality majority in Congress has the chance to finally ensure LGBTQ people’s rights are not determined by what side of a city or state line they live on,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “With the unprecedented backing of 70 percent of Americans, more than 280 members of Congress, 165 leading businesses and 288 organizations from across the country, now is the time to pass the bipartisan Equality Act.”