On Tuesday, 46 US Senators, led by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), re-introduced federal legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT Americans.
The legislation was filed simultaneously in the U.S. House of Representatives by 194 Representatives, led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).
“For far too long, the door of discrimination has been slammed shut on LGBTQ Americans. It’s been slammed shut on equality, it’s been slammed shut on opportunity, and this must end,” said Senator Merkley. “It’s time to have the Equality Act on the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate for a full debate.”
“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 Representative 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.”
“Every American deserves the freedom and opportunity to dream the same dreams, chase the same ambitions, and have the same shot at success,” said Senator Baldwin. “A growing number of Americans recognize that their LGBT family members, friends, and neighbors deserve to be treated like everyone else in the United States. Yet today in America, in the majority of states, LGBT Americans live without the protection of fully-inclusive non-discrimination laws. I believe America is ready to take the next steps forward in the march for fairness, equality, and opportunity for every American. It is time to take bold legislative action. The Equality Act will help us ensure that we are passing on to the next generation a country that is more equal, not less.”
“The Equality Act builds on the work of those who have struggled and fought for LGBT rights by extending basic civil rights protections that must be guaranteed to every American,” Senator Booker said. “We must never stop fighting to achieve justice for those who endure discrimination because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”
“In just the first 100 days, the Trump Administration has tested the limits of executive power, violated sacred American values, and shaken the very foundation of our constitutional order. Now, more than ever, we need to shine a light on the existing injustice in our laws that allows discrimination to flourish, and commit to eliminating it with the same fervor that has brought LGBTQ rights to this point. The Equality Act will do just that – and we are going to keep fighting to prevent the backsliding of any hard-won rights under this new administration. Because, in the end – when you fight for it – equality always prevails in America,” said U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer. “I want to thank my Senate and House colleagues – Senator Merkley, Leader Pelosi, Senator Baldwin, Senator Booker, and Congressman Cicilline in particular – who have been leading the fight to achieve and protect equal rights for all LGBTQ Americans.”
“More than ever, we must send a clear message to the LGBTQ community—President Trump does not represent who we are as a nation and we stand ready to reject all forms of discrimination,” said Senator Patty Murray. “I am committed to building on the unpreceded momentum we’ve seen since the election to move forward the Equality Act and lay out a vision for the kind of country we all know we can be—one where respect is valued and hate is pushed back.”
Despite major advances in equality for LGBT Americans, including nationwide marriage equality, the majority of states still do not have explicit LGBT non-discrimination protection laws.
The Equality Act of 2017 would ensure full federal non-discrimination equality by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to other protected classes, such as race or religion, in existing federal laws.
The bill would explicitly ban discrimination in a host of areas, including employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, and federal funding.
The bill would also add protections against sex discrimination in parts of anti-discrimination laws where these protections had not been included previously, including in public accommodations and federal funding.