Cicilline Introduces Equality Act of 2017

May 2, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Co-Chair David N. Cicilline (D-RI) today introduced the Equality Act of 2017 along with U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and 241 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

"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 – simply because of who they are.

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.