A coalition of 16 LGBTQ organizations has launched a national campaign designed to build public support for, and pressure federal lawmakers into passing, the Equality Act, a comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill.
The Freedom & Opportunity For All campaign will collaborate closely with more than 630 different organizations that support the bill to educate Americans about the importance of the Equality Act and mobilize their members to pressure lawmakers into supporting the bill.
The campaign will do this through a mix of activities including legislative advocacy and lobbying, national advertising campaigns, and social media campaigns.
The coalition is launching the campaign with an initial investment of $4 million that is expected to grow to eight figures as the campaign progresses.
The business community has already largely come out in support of the Equality Act, with 392 major corporations, with operations in all 50 states and a combined $6.5 trillion in revenue, joining the Human Rights Campaign’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act.
Many of those companies, which range from Coca-Cola and Apple. Inc. to General Mills and Johnson & Johnson, have stated publicly that they support the act because they believe LGBTQ-friendly laws will make it easier to attract and retain the heretofore untapped talent and fresh perspectives provided by LGBTQ employees.
If passed, the Equality Act would add protections for the LGBTQ community into the nation’s civil rights laws, prohibiting various forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and expanding the definition of “public accommodations” to include additional protections for race, ethnicity, and other characteristics.
The act was approved with bipartisan support last month, and recently received a hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
The groups behind the Freedom & Opportunity For All campaign include: the Center for American Progress, Equality Federation, Freedom for All Americans, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, GLSEN, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, the National Black Justice Coalition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Women’s Law Center, PFLAG National, SAGE, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and The Trevor Project.
Recent polling from Hart Research Associates finds that 70% of Americans — including 50% of Republicans — support the Equality Act in theory. But there remains a disconnect between the beliefs and opinions of ordinary Americans and, particularly in Republican-leaning districts, their elected officials.
Additionally, even if Republicans are supportive of LGBTQ rights in theory, they may not place a high priority on its passage.
Much of the debate over the Equality Act, as well as media coverage of the bill, has heavily relied on Republican talking points that the act does not contain enough protections for religious objectors to homosexuality and transgenderism, or the claim that women will be disadvantaged, particularly in athletics, if it is made illegal to discriminate against transgender people.
Those talking points also conveniently avoid taking more unpopular stances, such as openly advocating that LGBTQ people should be fired from their jobs, denied housing, refused government services, and kicked out of public spaces — all of which can happen under current law, and will happen, according to supporters, if the Equality Act is not passed.
By launching the campaign, advocates hope to mobilize, hone their messaging, push back against viral misinformation campaigns pushed by anti-LGBTQ forces, and rapidly disperse their own advertisements or fact-checks of erroneous claims utilizing both social media and traditional forms of media like television or radio.
“We stand at the precipice of history for the LGBTQ community. The Equality Act will finally enshrine into law the fundamental and uncontroversial principles of fairness and dignity for all people, and our coalition is committed to seeing it passed,” Winnie Stachelberg the executive vice president of external affairs at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement.
“An overwhelming majority of the American people — as well as lawmakers from both parties, the Biden administration, faith leaders, and corporate giants — support the Equality Act because they recognize that LGBTQ people deserve to be treated fairly and with respect by their employers, health care providers, educators, and civil servants. We stand united to work with the U.S. Senate to fulfill its obligation to the American people to support and defend the rights of everyone equally.”
Kevin Jennings, the CEO of Lambda Legal, noted that LGBTQ people often face pervasive discrimination in their everyday lives, and require some level of federal protections to ensure they are protected from harassment, abuse, or deliberate targeting.
“This is the moment to pass the Equality Act. Every day we hear the stories of individuals from communities across the country who continue to face discrimination and harassment. Our federal nondiscrimination laws are in place to advance fairness for everyone, and the overwhelming majority of Americans agree it is past time to ensure LGBTQ people are included in those protections,” Janson Wu, the executive director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said in a statement.
“Because it extends nondiscrimination protections for women in public spaces and federal services, addresses the discrimination that people of color and people of minority faiths encounter in such areas as contemporary retail spaces and transportation including car services, and adds clear and explicit protections for LGBTQ people, the Equality Act is the civil rights legislation we need now to move us closer to the promise of freedom and opportunity for all,” Wu added.
“The lives of millions of LGBTQ people in this country and our families would be improved through the Equality Act, best exemplified by the comments of Rep. Marie Newman (D) at the recent Senate Judiciary hearing: ‘No American should have to live a lie… you will feel deep depression, anxiety, and yes, suicidal.’ This is what is at stake for our community,” added Kierra Johnson, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.
“The gift and opportunity of this moment is to look deep inside of our collective selves and ask, ‘What are the limits of Love and Justice?’ We believe they are unlimited,” Johnson said. “We will do the work to prove it and are proud to be part of Freedom & Opportunity For All.”
Fatima Goss Graves, the president and CEO of National Women’s Law Center, rejected the premises of the lies about the Equality Act currently being spread by opponents, arguing that transgender people do not pose a threat to women’s well-being.
“The Equality Act represents a landmark step in the fight against all sex discrimination. The lives of LGBTQ women are marked by discrimination at every step, from the class room to the board room to the locker room, and this bill will strengthen the rights of all women to live free of fear from discrimination,” Goss Graves said in a statement.
“This is especially true of transgender women and LGBTQ women of color, whose risk for violence and abuse is worsened when we deny them full rights under the law,” Graves said. “Our commitment to inclusion of transgender women is inseparable from our commitment to safety, dignity, and justice for all women.”
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