By Alex Temblador
If you haven’t heard, yesterday Democrats introduced an anti-discrimination bill that “would create federal standards to protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing, workplaces, schools, public accommodations, and financial transactions.” With the recent legalization of same-sex marriage, it appears that the LGBT rights movement is on a wave of momentum that may end in equal protections for the LGBT community by federal law. To better understand the huge implications of such a bill, we thought we’d break it down for you.
The Equality Act
Known as the Equality Act, this LGBT anti-discrimination bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and other federal laws.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people against discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The Equality Act would include sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act.
As for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Equality Act would make it so that RFRA could not be used to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers.
- Title VII (Employment)
- The Government Employees Rights Act of 1991
- Civil Service Reform Act
- The Fair Housing Act
- The Jury Selection and Service Act
- Equal Credit Opportunity Act
What protections will the LGBT community receive from this bill?
- Public education
- Student loans
- Jury selection
- Federal funding (any business/organization/company that receives federal funding couldn’t discriminate against the LGBT community, such as welfare, healthcare, financial assistance, etc.)
- Credit (Equal access to credit, and “spouse” would replace the terms “husband and wife” in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act)
- Transgender Restroom Policy (trans persons and youth could use the restroom of the gender that they identify with)
- Service (businesses couldn’t deny someone service based on sexual orientation or gender identity)
Why do we need this bill to pass?
Only 22 states plus the District of Columbia have laws that protect LGBT persons from discrimination, however, most of these laws do not encompass all of the protections or rights to equality that LGBT persons deserve or need. A nationwide bill such as this would provide equality and equal treatment in all areas of social life for LGBT persons in the U.S.
Did we mention that the Equality Act would protect women and persons of color?
The Equality Act will also include “sex” for federal protection in addition to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in terms of public accommodation. This means that women would no longer be charged more for a service or purchase because of their gender.
As Amanda Terkel explains at the Huffington Post, “This change would mean that a car dealership couldn’t charge a woman more than a man, simply because she’s a woman. Or a salon couldn’t charge men and women different prices for the exact same haircut.”
It also means that women would be able to breastfeed in public without harassment or being kicked out of a public place.
Similarly, the definition of “public accommodation” would be updated. At the moment, only some businesses are considered “public accommodations” like hotels and inns, restaurants, theatres, and other entertainment venues. The Equality Act would also make retail stores, banks, transportation services, and health care services “public accommodations.” As Thinkprogress stated: “people of color would be protected from discrimination in stores, salons, or when hailing a cab.”
What are the odds of passing the Equality Act?
A poll released in April showed that 69% of Americans (and 51% of Republicans) were in favor of a federal law that would protect persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Though the public seems to be in favor of this law, Congress has a Republican majority which may prove an obstacle in getting the Equality Act passed. Though this does not mean that we should give up hope. We must push this Equality Act toward fruition for the LGBT community, women, persons of color—ALL Americans.
And we are glad to see that many senators are fighting hard for this act of justice. New York Senator Chuck Schumer said it best, about why we have to get this Equality Act passed:
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 23, 2015
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 23, 2015