Cicilline, Merkley Announce Introduction of Equality Act

Feb 18, 2021 Issues: LGBT Issues

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) today announced the introduction of the Equality Act, comprehensive civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community in the areas of employment, education, credit, jury service, federal funding, housing, and public accommodations.

“In 2021, every American should be treated with respect and dignity,” said Cicilline. “Yet, in most states, LGBTQ people can be discriminated against because of who they are, or who they love. It is past time for that to change. I’m proud to introduce the Equality Act today, and I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Merkley to get this bill signed into law.”

“All of us go to work and school, go home, and go shopping, and none of us should have to keep our families hidden or pretend to be someone we’re not to do those things,” said Merkley. “But in 29 states, Americans can still be evicted, be thrown out of a restaurant, or be denied a loan because of who they are or whom they love. We all love the vision of America as a land of freedom and equality, but are we willing to take the steps to make that vision closer to reality? Let’s make 2021 the year the Equality Act crosses the finish line and is signed into law by President Biden.”

The legislation will be formally introduced in the House today and in the Senate next week, when the Senate floor reopens.

The Equality Act, which President Biden has made a priority for his first 100 days in office, ensures that the same protections already extended to other protected classes are equally available to LGBTQ Americans.

“Our nation was founded on the promise that all are created equal and are worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of who they are or whom they love,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “With the reintroduction of the Equality Act, Congressional Democrats are making a resounding commitment to this truth: that all Americans must be treated equally under the law, not just in the workplace, but in every place. The Democratic House will now swiftly pass this landmark legislation and will keep working until it is finally enacted into law – so that we can combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination that undermines our democracy and advance justice in America.”

Despite progress made at the federal level in recent years, many forms of discrimination against LGBTQ people persist. Millions of LGBTQ people can get married on Sunday, post their wedding photos to Facebook on Monday, and then get thrown out of their apartment on Tuesday for no reason other than the fact that they are LGBTQ.

In 27 states, a person can be denied housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ people can also be denied access to education in 31 states, and the right to serve on a jury in 41 states.

The Equality Act fixes these problems by amending existing federal civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education, housing, credit, jury service, public accommodations, and federal funding.

The legislation is endorsed by leading advocacy organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP, the Urban League, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Law Center, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National LGBTQ taskforce, Lambda Legal, Family Equality Council, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the Transgender Law Center, Freedom for all Americans, SAGE, PFLAG, and the Center for American Progress.

The Equality Act passed the U.S. House in 2019 with a bipartisan 236-173 vote, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) blocked it from further consideration. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-05) has said that the House will again consider the Equality Act next week.