Equality Act to be Reintroduced in Congress With Unprecedented Support

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Democratic leaders of the U.S. House and Senate held a press event, on Wednesday, to introduce The Equality Act. The legislation amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations, and the use of federal funds.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, hailed The Equality Act, set to be reintroduced in Congress today by Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the House and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the Senate. The measure has unprecedented support from nearly 70 percent of Americans, more than 280 members of Congress, 165 major businesses and 288 statewide and national organizations. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has made passing the Equality Act a top priority for the new Congress.

“The harsh reality is that LGBTQ Americans still face real and persistent discrimination in their everyday lives,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “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. 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.”

Discrimination is a real and persistent problem for LGBTQ Americans. HRC polling has found that nearly two-thirds of self-identified LGBTQ Americans report experiencing discrimination. Currently, 50 percent of LGBTQ Americans live in the 30 states that still lack statewide legal non-discrimination protections, leaving their residents and visitors at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service because of who they are or whom they love. The Equality Act would guarantee existing civil rights laws apply to LGBTQ people by providing clear, consistent non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally-funded programs and jury service.

"Fifty years ago, courageous gay and transgender people stood up at Stonewall for the right to be recognized as equal Americans," out Democratic presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. "It's time to finally implement a federal Equality Act that extends civil rights protections to all Americans, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation. This bill is commonsense, bipartisan, and will ensure that LGBTQ+ Americans in the thirty states like Indiana where discrimination is effectively legal will have the same rights and protections as the rest of America. In this country, you should not be discriminated against because of who you are or who you love."

More than 160 major corporations have joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act. While the overwhelming majority of America’s leading businesses are already addressing workplace fairness for LGBTQ employees, these major employers know how important it is to have a federal legal standard that guarantees all employees have the same protections -- no matter where they live. The slate of companies endorsing the Equality Act have combined operations in all 50 states, headquarters in 27 states, and collectively generate $3.8 trillion in revenue. In total, these companies employ more than 8.7 million people across the U.S.

Recent polling finds that a growing majority of Americans support federal non-discrimination protections and LGBTQ equality. A recent survey by PRRI found that nearly seven in 10 Americans support laws like the Equality Act. In addition, post-election polling from HRC found that 60 percent of voters in the 2018 midterms opposed the Trump-Pence administration’s reported plans to define gender entirely by birth gender, thereby potentially excluding transgender people from civil rights protections.

Overall, voters also identified protecting the rights of groups targeted by the Trump-Pence administration as their top reason for voting to flip the U.S. House of Representatives. Leading up to the 2018 midterms, HRC worked to mobilize those voters through the largest and earliest grassroots deployment in the organization’s 39-year history. Following these historic efforts, House leadership identified the Equality Act as a top legislative priority for the new pro-equality majority.

The Equality Act was first introduced in Congress on July 23, 2015, with more than 165 original cosponsors in the House and 39 in the Senate. Today, XXX U.S. Representatives and XX U.S. Senators are co-sponsors of the legislation in the 116th Congress.