The Equality Act: The Most Important LGBTQ+ Legislation of Our Times

 
Photo by Ted Eytan

Photo by Ted Eytan

The Equality Act has the power to change millions of lives, both in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Run With Pride have made it our #1 legislative goal. We’re focusing all our time and resources on electing LGBTQ+ candidates that will support it. Here’s why:

Prejudice against LGBTQ+ Americans is still endemic. Two thirds of self-identified LGBTQ+ Americans report experiencing discrimination. It’s 2018, yet we have no explicit federal protections. The majority of states still lack proper discrimination-protections too. That means that half of the American LGBTQ+ community can be denied housing, refused service, or fired from their jobs, just for being themselves. In any civilized society, these statistics are unacceptable. It’s abundantly clear that this inconsistent, state-by-state patchwork of protections isn’t good enough; we need change on a federal level.

The Equality Act would amend and expand the protections offered in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to include protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex. These nationwide protections would be explicit and thorough. Further Amendments would be made to the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and various federal employment laws. Each would be altered to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected traits. This would ensure consistent discrimination-protections in employment, credit, housing, federal funding, the jury system, public education, and other vital areas of modern life.

The amendments would also expand the protected public spaces and services for all discriminated-against groups. The update would include banks, legal services, transportation services, and retail establishments (shopping centers, care centers, travel agents, funeral parlors, health services, and of course, cake shops). The definition of “public accommodations” would be expanded to cover any establishment that provides exhibitions, exercise, recreation, gatherings, or displays. Furthermore, it would be made overtly clear that “establishment” would not just be limited to a physical facility, so online services would be legally required to comply.

The Equality Act was first introduced in 1974, and then again in 2015. Previously it’s failed to make it through the House Committee on the Judiciary. But now it’s back, and with unprecedented levels of political, public, and corporate support. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders are among some of the political big-hitters who have voiced their support. Its latest reintroduction has 243 cosponsors - more congressional support than any other LGBTQ+ legislation in American history.

More importantly, the American people believe in the bill. The non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) conducted a ground-breaking survey across every U.S. state. Its 42,000 interviews covered all areas of the political spectrum. It not only found that national support for a bill like the Equality Act was more than 70%, but proved that the majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support it. Perhaps most impressively, it showed that a bill of this nature would have majority support in every single state; from Arkansas to Missouri, from California to Alabama.

Furthermore, there is unparalleled corporate support for the act. Over 90 major companies, (including giants like Facebook, Google, Nike, and Apple) have joined together to form the Business Coalition for the Equality Act. Together, the group employs more than 5.8 million people in the US and brings in over $2.6 trillion in revenue.

We know what you’re thinking, with unrivalled public, political, and corporate support for full federal equality, then what are we waiting for? Surprise, surprise…Congress. There are still powerful figures pushing back against the bill, and we need to build a coalition of LGBTQ+ support to guarantee that it passes.

While the LGBTQ+ community has made real progress, there can be no rest until clear and equal protections are permanently enshrined in civil rights laws. Discrimination, uncertainty, and fear play an all too familiar role in the lives our LGBTQ+ citizens. It’s time for that to change. The Equality Act is a fantastic piece of legislation that will provide consistent, permanent protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. To ensure that it does not die again, the bill needs meaningful support. That’s why we’re working hard to elect more LGBTQ+ candidates to Congress, and we need your help.

“No person’s fundamental rights should be determined by which side of a state line they live on […] Every American should have a fair chance to earn a living, provide for their families, and live their lives without fear of discrimination. And at its core, that’s what the Equality Act is all about.” - Human Rights Campaign President, Chad Griffin

This article was written by Alex Sinclair Lack for RunWithPride.org. If you’d like to help us in the fight for equality, click here.

 
Alex Sinclair Lack