This coming Thursday we can keep our eyes and ears open for what will hopefully be the next advancement in moving toward complete equality for members of the LGBT community.
The Equality Act, set for introduction in both chambers of Congress on Thursday, would explicitly ban anti-LBT discrimination in all areas of civil rights law. The lead sponsors of this bill are Representative David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Through this legislation they intend to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in the key areas of credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service, and public accommodations.
This Equality Act is not the first of its kind. More than 40 years ago a New York City representative introduced the first Equality Act, which would have amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation, and which was the first gay rights measure to ever be introduced in congress.
While we now have marriage equality for all, Cicilline does make the point that in most states LGBT people “still lack basic legal protections against discrimination”
“Every day, millions of LGBT Americans face the danger of real discrimination and sometimes even violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity….in most states, a same-sex couple can get married on a Saturday, post pictures on Facebook on Sunday, and then risk being fired from their job or kicked out of their apartment on Monday.”
Currently, the floor is open for co-sponsors and no Republicans have joined on the piece of legislation. It is still unclear as to whether the legislation will consist of amending the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity, or if it will be separate legislation that would aim to achieve comprehensive non-discrimination protections.
The expected introduction of the Equality Act is to be exactly one week after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that anti-gay workplace discrimination is already prohibited under the gender protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Also historical, three years prior would be the date that the agency made the same determination for transgender workplace discrimination.
Unfortunately, most observers take a look at the large Republican majority currently in congress and expect that the Equality Act won’t really see any movement this session. If any legislation related to LGBT issues were to see movement it would likely be the First Amendment Defense Act, a religious freedom bill seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination.
There is a “third option”, though. Moderate Republicans, led by Charlie Dent, have proposed a compromise bill that provides LGBT non-discrimination and religious freedom protections. The proposal consists of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and amending the Fair Housing Act to include LGBT protections while affirming that non-profits won’t lose their tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage.
We will get more information on all of this legislation as session progresses.