Sweeping federal nondiscrimination bill introduced in Congress

Posted on 24 Jul 2015 at 6:45am

David Cicilline

A sweeping federal nondiscrimination bill protecting LGBT people was introduced in Congress today, earning praise from some of the nation’s leading LGBT advocacy organizations and allies.

The Equality Act, sponsored by out Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., would amend federal laws to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education, public accommodations, credit, jury service, federal funding, renting and home ownership.

“You can be married on Saturday, post your wedding pictures on Facebook on Sunday and be fired from your job or kicked out of your apartment on Monday,” Cicilline said in a statement.

Currently only 19 states and the District of Columbia have clear LGBT nondiscrimination protections in employment and housing. Texas is among the states without any statewide protections.

Previous attempts to pass a narrower bill, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act barring employment nondiscrimination based on social orientation and gender identity, have failed. In 2013, a bill with sweeping religious exemptions passed before losing the support of key LGBT groups.

Following the Supreme Court’s June decision constitutionalizing marriage equality, LGBT advocates announced a push for nationwide nondiscrimination laws. The Equality Act is the first attempt to address national activists’ latest push for equality.

Yesterday, Ted Olson and David Boies, the legal team that represented the plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry case challenging California’s same-sex marriage ban, voiced support for a comprehensive federal LGBT non-discrimination law.

The bill is also one of the latest pushes to include gender identity as a protected class.

“This is a historic moment for transgender people,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for

Transgender Equality in a statement. “This bill is especially important as it comes on the heels of unprecedented public attention on trans lives. Despite that, trans people have faced record rates of violence — just this week, we learned of the 10th trans woman of color murdered in 2015. For trans people, equality is a matter of life and death.”

The bill faces an uncertain fate in an increasingly conservative Republican-controlled Congress.

— James Russell

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 24, 2015.

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