Metro Weekly

LGBTQ advocates praise passage of Equality Act

Landmark bill would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in multiple areas of daily life

Rep. David Cicilline speaks at a news conference in 2019 announcing the introduction of the Equality Act. – Photo: Office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, via Twitter.

Following passage of the Equality Act on Thursday, several LGBTQ advocacy groups praised lawmakers for pushing to extend legal protections to LGBTQ people around the nation.

The bill would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, access to federal funding, and other areas of daily life. U.S. House lawmakers ultimately passed the bill by a 224-206 margin, primarily along party lines, with all Democrats voting in favor.

The advocacy groups’ statements are below:

GLAAD: 

“The House passage of The Equality Act is a victory for all Americans and for our country’s core values of equal treatment under law. This landmark civil rights law secures those protections for every LGBTQ person, to live without fear of discrimination.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans already support laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, including Americans of all faiths. We are now calling on Senate leaders to come together to finish the work for what is right and just for all Americans. Any Senator against The Equality Act is not only complicit with LGBTQ discrimination, but grossly out of touch with the bill’s widespread, bipartisan public support. It is time to move together to ensure LGBTQ people have the chance to belong, to participate and to succeed in all areas of American life.” —Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO

Lambda Legal:

“Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, yet again, the Equality Act, as it has done in years past. And, once again, the Equality Act now goes to the U.S. Senate. We hope and trust this year, it will finally get the hearing in the Senate that it so richly deserves. After years of ignoring this important legislation, the Senate needs to take care of business and pass the Equality Act.

“Since the introduction of the first Equality Act in 1974 — nearly fifty years ago — LGBTQ advocates and our supporters in Congress have been fighting to win explicit protections for LGBTQ people in federal nondiscrimination laws. The time has come to enact those protections: 47 years is long enough to wait for protection of our basic rights as citizens.

“LGBTQ people across the country still remain vulnerable to discrimination daily due to the lack of comprehensive federal protections, as evidenced by the more than 5,000 requests for help Lambda Legal receives on it Legal Help Desk each year. The Equality Act not only fills in those gaps, but also brings our civil rights laws into the 21st century by extending protection against discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion to places that aren’t currently covered by our civil rights laws, to establishments like retail stores, transportation services like taxis and Ubers, and service providers like accountants. Today, the House took that important step. It is now time, in fact way past time, for the Senate to do the same.” —Kevin Jennings, CEO

National Black Justice Coalition:

“Today marks the first step in the next phase toward what we hope will be sweeping civil rights reforms for all of us, in addition to historic, explicit federal protections from discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. 

“If passed, the Equality Act would be the first piece of federal legislation to create clear and consistent legal protections for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+, and same-gender loving (LGBTQ+/SGL) people. While that fact is historic in and of itself, this bill does more than incorporate LGBTQ+ and same-gender loving people into existing civil rights protections, it also fills in significant gaps within existing civil rights laws for women, people of color, immigrants, religious groups, and those of us who live at the intersections of those identities.

“We applaud the House for supporting this bill once again, as it did in 2019, and urge the Senate to follow suit. As Black History Month concludes, we implore Senators to vote in favor of the Equality Act like their lives depend on it, as ours do.” —David Johns, executive director

Human Rights Campaign:

“Today’s vote is a major milestone for equality bringing us closer to ensuring that every person is treated equally under the law. The Equality Act has broad support from 70% of voters, hundreds of elected officials nationwide and an unprecedented number of businesses who believe that not only is achieving equality the right thing to do, it is a unifying issue for our nation.

“The Human Rights Campaign thanks the U.S. House of Representatives under Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership for its commitment to LGBTQ equality and advancing this legislation forward on behalf of all Americans. Now, the ball is in the Senate’s court to pass the Equality Act and finally allow LGBTQ Americans the ability to live their lives free from discrimination.” —Alphonso David, president

Equality PAC:

“For millions of LGBTQ Americans, the Equality Act means that they will finally have the protections they desperately need and no longer have to fear being discriminated against in the areas of housing, healthcare, credit and so much more.

“Now that the House of Representatives has passed the Equality Act with bipartisan support, we are one step closer to making the Equality Act the law of the land, ensuring protections for millions of LGBTQ Americans and their families. We urge the Senate to quickly pass this critical legislation and send it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.” —Co-chairs Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.)

RelatedHere’s every Republican who voted against the Equality Act

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser:

“We applaud the House of Representatives for once again passing the Equality Act to ensure critical civil rights protections for LGBTQIA+ Americans. While we have made progress, too many LGBTQIA+ Americans can still be fired, refused service, denied housing, or have loan applications rejected because of who they are or who they love. We urge the Senate to similarly pass this long-overdue legislation to ensure that LGBTQIA+ Americans, regardless of where they call home, can thrive and live free from discrimination.” —D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser

SAGE:

“LGBT elders have been fighting for their rights since the first iteration of the Equality Act was introduced fifty years ago. They have unjustly been subjected to discrimination and lived without basic legal protections for far too long. Today’s vote brings us another step closer to finally passing the crucial non-discrimination protections that LGBT elders deserve.” —Michael Adams, CEO

NMAC:

“We cannot successfully fight HIV/AIDS without ending discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Overt or perceived discrimination is a major reason why many LGBTQ Americans do not seek out needed health care, including HIV testing, care, or prevention education. It also deeply affects such basic things as keeping HIV medications in their homes or accessing health care benefits through their employer. By ensuring their protection under the law in every state and territory, the Equality Act will have a tremendous impact on our efforts to end HIV by 2030.” —Paul Kawata, executive director

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton:

“Today’s Equality Act passage gives me special joy. This bill fills a large space I have tried to fill ever since being elected to Congress. My work for the LGBTQ community has come naturally. As a lifelong fighter for equal rights, I saw congressional failure to address discrimination against the LGBTQ community as no different than congressional failure to bar segregation in the public schools I attended as a child in the District, or to address discrimination in voting rights and public accommodations I went to Mississippi to fight as a student in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

“The Equality Act is uniquely comprehensive. Historically, when Congress has passed civil rights legislation, it typically has done so by category, whether in employment, or housing, or the rest. However, the Equality Act encompasses all forms of typical discrimination and sends a special message. It is too late for anything except legislation that takes on discrimination against our LGBTQ community once and for all.” —Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)

Southern Poverty Law Center:

“We applaud the US House of Representatives’ passage of the Equality Act, which explicitly names LGBTQ+ people in our federal civil rights laws. Express inclusion in and expansion of those laws will help end and deter the discriminatory practices that directly harm LGBTQ+ people and their families when it comes to employment, housing, health care, public spaces and services, education, access to credit (such as for mortgages), and all activities that receive federal funding.

“The Equality Act will also prevent the misuse of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and authorize the attorney general to intervene in federal court in equal protection actions alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It is disgraceful that until now, LGBTQ+ people were not included by name in these essential protections. We urge the US Senate to quickly pass the Equality Act so that LGBTQ+ people can finally receive the dignity and respect they deserve.” —Scott McCoy, interim director

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