WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) today announced the introduction of the Equality Act – legislation to extend anti-discrimination protections in public accommodations, housing, employment, federal funding, education, credit, and jury service. Cicilline, who is one of seven openly gay members of Congress, announced the Equality Act today during a press conference with Senator Jeff Merkley, who introduced the Equality Act in the U.S. Senate today, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, and Congressman John Lewis.
“In most states, you can get married on Saturday, post your wedding photos to Facebook on Sunday, and then get fired on Monday just because of who you are. This is completely wrong. Fairness and equality are core American values. No American citizen should ever have to live their lives in fear of discrimination,” said Cicilline. “I am introducing the Equality Act today with 157 House co-sponsors in order to ensure that LGBT Americans have the same rights and protections afforded to all other Americans.”
“This bill is about justice. It is about freedom,” Leader Pelosi said. “The Equality Act is about ensuring that every American – no matter who they love, no matter who they are – can enjoy the full blessings of American democracy.”
“No one should be faced with the threat of being fired or discrimination in the workplace simply because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. “Neither should anyone be denied housing, health care, educational opportunities, or other services for the same reasons. America was founded on the principle that all are created equal and ought to have an equal opportunity to pursue the American Dream. After the historic marriage ruling last month, the Equality Act is the next step in securing the full civil rights of LGBT individuals and their families, and I hope the Congress will take action on this bill without delay.”
“This legislation is what justice requires, and like the recent Supreme Court decision, it is long overdue. No longer should America turn her back on our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters,” added Congressman John Lewis (D-GA). “We must come together to create one nation and one people, a country free of hate, free of fear, and that respects dignity and worth of every human being.”
“The time has come for us as a nation to be bolder and better in ensuring full rights for the LGBT community,” said Merkley. “Every person deserves to live free from fear of discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love. Enacting the Equality Act will bring us another significant step forward in our nation’s long march towards inclusion and equality. It will extend the full promise of America to every American.”
Despite progress made in recent years, discrimination remains a reality of life for many LGBT Americans. A study conducted earlier this year by the non-partisan Human Rights Campaign found that 63% of LGBT Americans have experienced discrimination in their personal lives. In addition, research indicates 82% of LGBT students report that they’ve been verbally harassed, 38% have been physically harassed, and 64% have felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
The Equality Act will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other existing laws to extend anti-discrimination protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity. Despite last month’s Supreme Court ruling that affirmed marriage equality, discrimination against LGBT individuals remains legal in most states. Today, only 19 states and the District of Columbia offer employment and housing protections for the LGBT community. And three other states have prohibitions on discrimination based solely on sexual orientation.
Only 17 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination for public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Another four prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Just 14 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in education. And only one state, Wisconsin, prohibits it based on sexual orientation.