The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) joined with bipartisan lawmakers and an unprecedented number of businesses to announce re-introduction of the Equality Act — federal legislation that would guarantee explicit, permanent protections for LGBT people under our nation’s existing civil rights laws.
The bipartisan legislation would provide clear and equal protections under federal law for all Americans in vital areas of life, like employment, access to public spaces, housing, credit, education, jury service, and federally-funded programs.
Today, in a majority of U.S. states (31), LGBT people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of sexual persecution for who they are.
“No person’s fundamental rights should be determined by which side of a state line they live on,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The Equality Act will once and for all end the unacceptable patchwork of non-discrimination laws across this country that leaves LGBT people at risk. 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.”
“Not only is discrimination is a real and persistent problem for far too many LGBT Americans, but this morally repugnant behavior is perfectly legal in most places,” said James Devine, a New Jersey Democratic strategist. “Americans have a right to privacy and deserve to be protected from bigotry.”
Devine said polling has confirmed that nearly two-thirds of self-identified LGBT Americans report experiencing discrimination — including people like Carter Brown, a transgender man from Texas who lost his job after he was outed by his colleagues.
Currently, 50 percent of LGBT Americans live in states where they are at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service because of who they are.
There is no federal law explicitly protecting LGBT people from discrimination, and 31 states still lack fully-inclusive non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
Today’s announcement included unprecedented support from the business community: 92 major corporations have now joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act.
While the overwhelming majority of America’s leading businesses have already started addressing workplace fairness for LGBT employees, these major employers know how important the need is for a federal standard that treats all employees the same no matter which state they live in.
The slate of companies endorsing the Equality Act have combined operations in all 50 states, headquarters spanning 23 states, and collectively generate $2.6 trillion in revenue. In total, these companies employ more than 5.8 million people across the United States.
The overwhelming majority of Americans support full federal equality for LGBT people.
Polling released last year by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that support for a bill like the Equality Act topped 70 percent nationally, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
PRRI’s groundbreaking survey included 42,000 interviews in 50 states and found majority support for the Equality Act in all 50 states.
The Equality Act is co-sponsored by 241 members of Congress. It was first introduced in 2015 by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) and by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Major corporations that have endorsed the Equality Act include Abercrombie & Fitch Co.; Accenture; Adobe Systems Inc.; Advanced Micro Devices Inc.; Airbnb Inc.; Alcoa Inc.; Amazon.com Inc.; American Airlines; American Eagle Outfitters; American Express Global Business Travel; Apple Inc.; Arconic; Automatic Data Processing Inc.; Bank of America; Best Buy Co., Inc.; Biogen; Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corp.; Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.; Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc.; Brown-Forman Corp.; CA Technologies Inc.; Caesars Entertainment Corp.; Capital One Financial Corp.; Cardinal Health Inc.; Cargill Inc.; Chevron Corp.; Choice Hotels International Inc.; Cisco Systems Inc.; The Coca-Cola Co.; Corning Inc.; Cox Enterprises; CVS Health Corp.; Darden Restaurants Inc.; Delhaize America Inc.; Diageo North America; The Dow Chemical Co.; Dropbox Inc.; E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (DuPont); eBay; EMC Corp.; Facebook Inc.; Gap Inc.; General Electric Co.; General Mills Inc.; Google Inc.; The Hershey Company; Hewlett Packard Enterprises; Hilton Worldwide Inc.; HP Inc.; HSN Inc.; Hyatt Hotels Corp.; IBM Corp.; Intel Corp.; InterContinental Hotels Group Americas; Johnson & Johnson; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; Kaiser Permanente; Kellogg Co.; Kenneth Cole Productions; Levi Strauss & Co.; Marriott International Inc.; MasterCard Inc.; McGraw Hill Financial; Microsoft Corp.; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Monsanto Co.; Moody’s Corp.; Nike Inc.; Northrop Grumman Corp.; Office Depot Inc.; Oracle Corp.; Orbitz Worldwide Inc.; PepsiCo Inc.; Procter & Gamble Co.; Pure Storage Inc.; Qualcomm Inc.; Replacements Ltd.; Salesforce; SAP America Inc.; Sodexo Inc.; Symantec Corp.; T-Mobile USA Inc.; Target Corp.; Tech Data Corp.; TIAA; Twitter Inc.; Uber Technologies Inc.; Unilever; Warby Parker; Wedding Wire Inc.; Williams-Sonoma Inc.; and Xerox Corp.
“Fairness and equality are core American values. But millions of LGBT Americans are still viewed as less than equal in the eyes of the law today,” said Cicilline. “I’m proud to introduce the Equality Act of 2017 with Senator Jeff Merkley. This bill ensures that every LGBT person can live their lives free from the fear of discrimination. Above all, it’s about honoring the values that have guided our nation since its founding. It’s critical that Congress pass the Equality Act into law.”
“For far too long, the door of discrimination has been slammed shut on LGBTQ Americans,” added Senator Merkley. “It’s been slammed shut on equality, it’s been slammed shut on opportunity, and this must end. It’s time to have the Equality Act on the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate for a full debate.”
“We cannot grow complacent in the quest for equal rights for all. Every day it is evident that we still have work to do. Basic constitutional human rights must be protected in every state,” LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Jared Polis said. “The Equality Act will finally give all LGBTQ Americans protections from discrimination. Equal rights are what sustain us as a unified nation, as the land of the free, and as an example for the entire world.”
Despite significant advances, LGBT people across the country remain vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis and too often have little recourse.
With the advent of nationwide marriage equality, in many states, same-sex couples have the right to marry but have no explicit non-discrimination protections.
In most states, this means that a same-sex couple could legally marry one day and risk being fired from their jobs, evicted from their apartment, or kicked out of a restaurant the next.
The Equality Act ensures that the same protections already extended to other protected classes are equally available to LGBT Americans.
It amends existing federal civil rights laws 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.
In some of these areas, federal law prohibiting sex discrimination has already been properly interpreted by federal courts and administrative agencies to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Equality Act affirms that understanding of existing law and makes the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity explicit, in order to provide greater clarity to members of the public, employers, schools, businesses and other affected parties. In areas where sex discrimination is not already prohibited, the bill amends existing law to bar discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Cicilline, who also led the introduction of the Equality Act of 2015, introduced the proposal today with more co-sponsors than ever before in the U.S. House. Today also marks the first time that the bill is being introduced as a bipartisan proposal in the House.
The full text of the Equality Act can be viewed by clicking here.
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