Metro Weekly

HRC launches video of civil rights leaders calling on Congress to pass the Equality Act

Video features leaders of civil rights organizations touting importance of passing the landmark legislation

Fatima Goss Graves in HRC’s “Let’s Get Equal” video urging passage of the Equality Act. – Photo: Human Rights Campaign.

On Wednesday evening, the Human Rights Campaign released a video on its social media channels featuring more than a dozen of the nation’s civil rights leaders calling on members of Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would ensure protections for LGBTQ people nationwide.

The act, introduced earlier this month in Congress, would amend the nation’s civil rights laws to include prohibitions on discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to existing prohibitions on discrimination based on a person’s race, religion, ethnicity, or sex.

The bipartisan piece of legislation is expected to easily pass the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, where 234 out of 235 Democrats, as well as Republican Reps. John Katko (N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), have signed on as co-sponsors. As the bill goes through the regular committee process, LGBTQ advocates are hoping to garner support from additional Republicans.

But the biggest obstacle promises to be the U.S. Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has historically refused to allow votes on any legislation that expands LGBTQ rights — and where Democrats would need to pick up at least four, possibly five Republican votes to ensure passage.

Mindful of the significance of amending the nation’s civil rights laws to include protections for the LGBTQ community, HRC created a video highlighting several leaders of key civil rights groups who express their support for the bill and urge Congress to hold an up-or-down vote and pass the legislation. The bill is currently being supported by a coalition of more than 170 major corporations, and has amassed the support of 300 social justice, medical, child welfare, and religious organizations.

Some of the leaders featured in the video include HRC President Chad Griffin; Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who previously served as head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division; National Urban League President Marc Morial; National Women’s Law Center President and CEO Fatima Goss Graves; the American Civil Liberties Union’s Trans Justice Campaign Manager LaLa Zannell; UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía; AIDS United President Jess Milan, Jr.; Jiny Kim, the vice president of policy and programs at Asian Americans Advancing Justice; National Transgender Center for Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling; Rabbi Jack Moline of the Interfaith Alliance; and Neera Tanden, the president of the liberal-leaning think tank Center for American Progress.

“The idea that all people should be treated equally and fairly is a foundation of human existence,” Morial says in the video.

“It is past time that the federal government recognize LGBTQ people,” says Gupta.

“[N]o matter who you are, and no matter who you love, you shouldn’t have to endure discrimination, just to have a job, just to go to school, just to get the housing that you need,” adds Goss Graves. “…My message to LGBTQ folks and all of us who care about equality and dignity is that it is time to push Congress to do the right thing.”

Currently, 30 states in the country have no laws that provide explicit protections for LGBTQ individuals, meaning that nearly half of all LGBTQ people live in states where they can easily become targets for harassment, discrimination, and potentially even fatal violence.

“The Equality Act would finally ensure clear federal protections from discrimination for LGBTQ people from coast to coast,” David Stacy, HRC’s government affairs director, said in a statement announcing the video’s launch.

“More than 300 civil rights, religious, child welfare, and other state and national organizations have joined forces to support the critical legislation. HRC is proud to work alongside so many incredible leaders in the civil rights community  to make clear that this legislation is about the fundamental American promise of equality, dignity, and justice for all.”

See the video below:

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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