The House of Representatives passed The Equality Act on February 25, 2021, amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include comprehensive protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is the most significant civil rights legislation for LGBTQ people, and it comes as an overwhelming majority of Americans already support laws to protect LGBTQ people.
Tips for journalists covering The Equality Act can be found here.
The U.S. Senate will begin hearings on the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 17th.
Despite the landmark Supreme Court decisions for marriage equality in 2015, and the expansion of non-discrimation employment protections in 2020, discrimination against LGBTQ people is still an alarming reality. There are significant gaps in protections for millions of employees of smaller businesses and religious institutions. That’s on top of an ongoing lack of protections for all LGBTQ people in housing, health care, education and public accommodations across the country. 27 states have no nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans.
This means a landlord in Florida can refuse to rent to a same-sex couple. A college student in Tennessee can be kicked out of school for being transgender. A hospital in Maryland can refuse to treat a transgender man.
The Equality Act addresses these issues. It ensures comprehensive protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity nationwide, including in housing, education, public accommodations and access to credit. It is a quilt of coverage, not a small square provided by the Court’s landmark, but limited, Bostock decision. It allows a chance “for the full participation of LGBTQ people in society,” as the text of the Act says.
GLAAD research shows up to 91% of Americans believe it should be illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Most Americans already think it is illegal to discriminate. Polls show a majority of Americans of all faiths and political affiliation support in laws to protect LGBTQ people. Passing this bill, which President Biden has promised to sign into law, secures those core American values of fairness and equal treatment.
The Equality Act had passed the House in May of 2019, but it sat untouched in the GOP-led Senate, not even coming up for a vote. With a change in the Senate majority, the time has finally come for both chambers of Congress to pass this critical legislation. President Biden supports the Equality Act and promises to sign it into law when it passes.