Washington, D.C. February 18, 2021 – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley teamed up with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) today to announced the upcoming Senate introduction of the Equality Act—historic, comprehensive legislation to ban discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, just as religious, racial, and gender discrimination are illegal everywhere in the United States.
The announcement coincided with the bill’s introduction by Representative David Cicilline in the U.S. House of Representatives. The House passed the Equality Act in 2019 but it was buried in former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard. The Senate bill will be formally introduced next week when the Senate floor re-opens for bill introductions.
“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 Senator Merkley, who authored the Equality Act. “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.”
“As long as there are people who face discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, we have work to do. I am proud to reintroduce this groundbreaking legislation with Senators Merkley and Baldwin that will clarify and codify that federal civil rights law protects LGBTQ+ Americans,” said Senator Booker. “This legislation signifies the best of who we are as Americans. But the fact that we need this legislation reflects the worst of who we are. If we are going to celebrate ideals of liberty and freedom, we must have comprehensive and nationwide protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.”
“It is just wrong that in a majority of states, LGBTQ Americans live without fully-inclusive non-discrimination laws and can still face discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love. It is time to end this kind of discrimination because LGBTQ Americans should have the freedom of full equality,” said Senator Baldwin. “I know the House will do its job to pass the Equality Act and the Senate should do the same and get the job done so that we provide full equality for every LGBTQ American across our country.”
The legislation would amend the landmark federal anti-discrimination laws to explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity to longstanding bans on discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, federal funding, and more. It would also add protections against sex discrimination in parts of anti-discrimination laws where these protections had not been included previously, such as public accommodations and federal funding.
LGBTQ equality received a huge boost across the nation last June when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited as a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, this court ruling has not yet been nationally applied to other areas of potential discrimination—including housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, and more. Many Americans believe that such protections are already explicitly written into federal civil rights law, but this is not the case. The Equality Act would finally enshrine these protections into federal law under all areas of potential discrimination and ensure that these essential protections for LGBTQ Americans are not subject to the whims of a changing court. The full text of the Equality Act is available here.