Lawmakers, Leaders Back Equality Act, To Offer More Legal Protections

Janson Wu, ED of GLAD
Photo: GLAD
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Janson Wu, ED of GLAD  Photo: GLAD

Janson Wu, ED of GLAD
Photo: GLAD

By: Sara Brown/TRT Assistant Editor—

BOSTON, Mass.—Several Democrats in the House and Senate recently created a bill that would give more legal protection to LGBTQ Americans. The bill, known as the Equality Act, would outlaw discrimination in a series of public settings, including the job market and institutes of higher education.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). The Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity at work and in the context of housing, credit, education, and jury service.

Merkley said the act will help the country become more inclusive.

“The time has come for us as a nation to be bolder and better in ensuring full rights for the LGBT community,” he said when he first introduced the bill in late July. “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.”

Many activists are applauding what the bill will bring.

“The Equality Act simply embodies the principle that people should be judged solely on their merits,” said Executive Director of Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition Mason Dunn. “Federal protections for discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation are an important step in the fight for LGBTQ equality.”

Booker is certain the act will offer more protection to LGBT citizens.

“With each fight for justice, ordinary people have challenged our nation to become a more perfect union,” said Booker in a released statement. “The Equality Act builds on the work of those who have struggled and fought for LGBT rights by extending basic civil rights protections that must be guaranteed to every American. Together, I know we can achieve justice for those who endure discrimination due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.” [pullquote]“Businesses and employers across the country still believe they can fire someone for being LGBT, with impunity,” Wu said. “The Equality Act will remove any doubt that anti-LGBT discrimination is not only wrong, but illegal.”—Janson Wu, Executive Director, GLAD[/pullquote]

Janson Wu, Executive Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), said the bill is a step in the right direction.

“Not only will the Equality Act provide clear and comprehensive anti-discrimination protections for our community, but it will send a clear message from our federal government that LGBT discrimination has no place in the year 2015,” he said.

Wu believes this act is especially important to protect LGBTQ citizens in the work force.

Executive Director of Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition Mason Dunn  Photo: Mason Dunn

Executive Director of Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition Mason Dunn
Photo: Mason Dunn

“Businesses and employers across the country still believe they can fire someone for being LGBT, with impunity,” Wu said. “The Equality Act will remove any doubt that anti-LGBT discrimination is not only wrong, but illegal.”

Currently, in 31 states, couples trying to purchase a home can legally be denied on the basis of sexual orientation. Two-thirds of Americans, support the passage of a sweeping federal non-discrimination law on the basis of sexual orientation, and 98 percent of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies have already put protections in place for LGBT employees.

Some believe the bill does not offer enough legal protection.

“It’s a good start, but it does not go far enough,” Natalia Muñoz, former owner of Spanish publication, La Prensa, said. “For instance, equal pay is not covered. That is just wrong.”

However, Muñoz thinks this will help LGBTQ people of color. [pullquote]“Being of color already means you face discrimination, either institutionally by well-meaning people or by bigots,” she said. “Every step we take to ensure equal protection under the laws is fundamental to our—everyone’s—right for equal opportunities in education, health, work and sports.”[/pullquote]

“Being of color already means you face discrimination, either institutionally by well-meaning people or by bigots,” she said. “Every step we take to ensure equal protection under the laws is fundamental to our—everyone’s—right for equal opportunities in education, health, work and sports.”

The bill, Wu agrees, will offer LGBTQ people of color even more legal protections.

“LGBT people of color are even more vulnerable to discrimination than white LGBT people,” he said. “Given the economic disparities that exist across racial lines, losing a job can mean the difference between earning a living and poverty. It is even more critical for LGBT communities of color that we pass this legislation.”

To learn more about the Equality Act, visit www.merkley.senate.gov.

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