The Equality Act was formally introduced in the House of Representatives today by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). The out Congressman has reintroduced the bill every session since 2015.
The proposed law would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.
The bill passed the House of Representatives in 2019 but stalled in the Senate. If passed by the full Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, the Equality Act would be the most sweeping federal LGBTQ civil rights legislation ever to become law in U.S. history.
Biden has made it a priority for his administration to pass the landmark legislation. The House is expected to pass it easily, but the path through the Senate is less certain.
Despite strong bipartisan support, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced yesterday that he will oppose the Equality Act unless it includes language that would allow Christians to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
“Sen. Romney believes that strong religious liberty protections are essential to any legislation on this issue, and since those provisions are absent from this particular bill, he is not able to support it,” said Arielle Mueller, a Romney spokesperson, announced yesterday.
“LGBTQ people across the country remain vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis and too often have little recourse,” Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings said in an emailed statement. The group provides pro bono legal support to LGBTQ people and causes.
“Without comprehensive federal protections, the basic rights of LGBTQ people vary state to state. In some instances, individuals lose rights and protections the moment they cross the border into a neighboring state, underscoring that the current patchwork of protections for LGBTQ people is inadequate.”
“In addition,” he continued, “as evidenced by the thousands of phone calls to our Help Desk we receive each year, many employers, landlords and lenders still haven’t gotten the message that discrimination is just wrong, which is why we need the absolute clarity of the Equality Act, and we need it now.”
“In 21 states, a person who is LGBTQ+ can be denied service by a business, housing or food by a shelter, healthcare by a doctor, access to banking to buy a house or a car, and much more—simply for who they are,” Brian Bond, the Executive Director of PFLAG, added. “The same is true in these states for people of faith, for people of color, for women, and for people with disabilities. Without the Equality Act, discrimination reigns in this country where we pledge liberty and justice for all.”
The group provides support and resources for families of LGBTQ people.
“Building on foundations of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and other existing civil rights laws, the Equality Act fills in legal gaps for Black people and members of other marginalized communities who face discrimination, including women and non-binary people. By expanding existing anti-discrimination laws to new domains like ridesharing apps and retail stores, the Equality Act provides legal protection and recourse that has been historically absent,” David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said.