Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I) and John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) plan to introduce sweeping legislation this afternoon to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing, workplaces, schools, and public accommodations. If passed, the Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections for LGBTQ people alongside provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race.
The introduction of the Equality Act comes after several attempts to introduce versions of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) which would have barred discrimination against LGBTQ people in their workplaces. However, today’s legislation is the first of its kind introduced on the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage earlier this summer.
Invoking the momentum of the Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Rep. Cicilline declared his bill the next step for LGBTQ advocates everywhere: “In most states, a same-sex couple can get married on Saturday, post pictures on Facebook on Sunday, and then risk being fired from their job or kicked out of their apartment on Monday.”
To address these fears, the Equality Act creates a framework to resolve what Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin has called “an unacceptable patchwork of state-level protections” that make it difficult to LGBTQ people to negotiate public school systems, healthcare, and sex-segregated facilities.
While it could be some time before the bill sees a vote, many LGBTQ advocates are eager to achieve the protections of equal rights under the law. In Griffin’s words: “The time has come in this country for full federal equality, and nothing less.”