Democrats Introduce Sweeping, Historic Bill to Protect LGBT Rights

The Equality Act would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections for LGBT people.

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&language=en&ref_site=photo&search_source=search_form&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&use_local_boost=1&autocomplete_id=&search_tracking_id=WX8R_M-P7iYevjVYoJoU-Q&searchterm=rainbow%20flag&show_color_wheel=1&orient=&commercial_ok=&media_type=images&search_cat=&searchtermx=&photographer_name=&people_gender=&people_age=&people_ethnicity=&people_number=&color=&page=1&inline=115334461">Natasha Kramskaya </a>/Shutterstock

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


Members of Congress introduced on Thursday a historically comprehensive bill that would create federal standards to protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing, workplaces, schools, public accommodations, and financial transactions.

Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, but most states still lack laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in other areas. “This means that while same-sex couples can today legally marry, tomorrow they could lose their jobs, be kicked out of a restaurant, or be turned down for a mortgage, just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a cosponsor of the bill, said in Washington before its introduction in the House and Senate.

The Equality Act, as it’s known, would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin—to also include protections for LGBT people. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who became the fourth openly gay member of Congress five years ago, cited staggering statistics to support the bill. He said 63 percent of LGBT Americans have reported experiencing discrimination at some point in their lives, and that 56 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have experienced discrimination when trying to get health care. “The current system, this patchwork of protections and lack of protections for the LGBT community in our states, is not working,” he said Thursday.

But the Equality Act will likely face opposition from Republican lawmakers. In 2013, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have prohibited discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, passed in the Senate but died in the GOP-controlled House.

Only 21 states explicitly outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and of those, 19 states plus Washington, DC, also prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign. For a better sense of the fragmented landscape, check out the following maps on employment discrimination, housing discrimination, discrimination in public places, and credit discrimination, courtesy of the Movement Advancement Project, a Colorado-based think tank.

Employment discrimination and sexual orientation/gender identity Movement Advancement Project
Public accommodations laws generally cover anywhere someone is when they are not at home, work, or school, including retail stores, restaurants, parks, hotels, doctors’ offices, and banks. – See more at: http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/non_discrimination_laws#sthash.yu3LZkag.dpuf

Housing discrimination and sexual orientation/gender identity Movement Advancement Project

Public accommodation discrimination and sexual orientation/gender identity Movement Advancement Project

Credit discrimination and sexual orientation/gender identity Movement Advancement Project

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.