Today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Equality Act! This historic bill stands for a simple proposition: that equality under the law is for everyone, and adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of all existing anti-discrimination measures in the United States Code.
For the first time ever, a comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill received a vote on the floor in Congress. It passed the House on the same day that we celebrate the 65th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education.
In January, after 17 years of hard work, New York State finally enacted GENDA — a measure to protect transgender and gender non-conforming people from discrimination statewide. However, LGBT people in other states are still vulnerable to discrimination, and lack recourse under the law. Only 22 states have clear laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. Transgender people lack these basic protections in a staggering 31 states.
There is an urgent need for explicit, nationwide protections for LGBT people.
The public stands with the LGBT community. Polls show that 70% of Americans support a comprehensive non-discrimination bill that provides protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, there is strong support for the Equality Act from the business community, with over 200 major U.S. companies endorsing the legislation.
The momentum is headed towards justice under the law for LGBT people, and the stakes are high. Millions of LGBT people already rely on federal protections in employment and schools.
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would review three cases that could have a massive impact on the rights and lives of LGBT people. A bad Supreme Court ruling would be disastrous. What’s more, President Trump has already confirmed over 100 federal judges, and according to Lambda Legal, as many as 1/3 of them are anti-LGBT. In this climate, we cannot simply rely on winning in the courts.
The Equality Act would cement consistent application of nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in employment, housing, credit, public accommodation, jury service and more. As the federal courts become more hostile to LGBT rights, we need legislative action.
The time for the Equality Act is now. The LGBT Bar Association of New York calls upon Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the measure to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
Eric Lesh & Kristen Browde