Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Despite significant steps forward, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) Americans around the country are facing an uptick in discrimination and dangerous state-sponsored legislation. To combat these hateful actions, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, along with Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and New Jersey’s U.S. Senator Cory Booker, today teamed up with U.S. Representative Mark Takano (D-CA-39) to introduce the bicameral Equality Act. The Equality Act is historic, comprehensive legislation that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans, just as religious, racial, and ethnic discrimination are illegal everywhere in the United States.

“Generations of Americans have marched, voted, organized, and raised their voices to move us closer toward a more perfect union with freedom, equality, and opportunity for all,” said Senator Merkley. “We all go to work and school, go home, and go shopping, and none of us should have to keep our families hidden or pretend to be someone we’re not to do those things. Yet in some states, Americans can still be evicted, be thrown out of a restaurant, or be denied a loan because of who they are or whom they love. To realize the vision of America as a land of freedom and equality, we must be willing to take the steps to bring that vision closer to reality, and that’s exactly what the Equality Act does.”

“If we want to live up to our nation’s ideal of true equality, we must address the fact that we have been coming up short. It is wrong that in a majority of states, LGBTQ+ people can be denied an apartment, cut from a job, thrown out of a store, or face other forms of discrimination just because of who they are or who they love,” said Senator Baldwin. “And that’s why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ+ Americans against discrimination and live up to our nation’s ideals of freedom and equality.”

“The flood of legislation in state after state seeking to undermine the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans is antithetical to our nation’s fundamental ideals and only serves to foster more hate, division, and prejudice,” said Senator Booker. “Congress must act to ensure that no person is discriminated against based on their gender identity or who they love. That is why I am proud to join again with colleagues to reintroduce the Equality Act, landmark legislation that will guarantee that LGBTQ+ Americans are protected under federal law and move us one step closer to having a nation that truly lives up to our ideals of liberty, freedom, and justice for all.”

“The promise of democracy means a great deal to me personally because I have felt the sting of its denial. As the first openly gay person of color to serve in Congress, I am acutely aware of the impacts lawful discrimination has on our marginalized communities in the United States, and the LGBTQI+ community have been subject to discrimination, violence, and the denial of their full personhood under the law for far too long. I’m proud to reintroduce the Equality Act as a long-overdue guarantee to all members of our community that we, too, benefit from the civil rights protections and the full promise of American democracy,” said Congressman Mark Takano, Co-Chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus. 

This legislation would amend the landmark federal anti-discrimination laws to explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity to longstanding bans on discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, federal funding, and more. It would also add protections against sex discrimination in parts of anti-discrimination laws where these protections had not been included previously, such as public accommodations and federal funding.

“From education and housing to family planning and the workplace, LGBTQ+ Americans everywhere deserve to feel safe,” said Leader Schumer. “Congress must pass the Equality Act so that no one fears losing their job or being turned away from a business simply because of they chose to live life fully and openly. Under this Democratic Senate, we will continue to fight to get the Equality Act across the finish line.”

“I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Takano and Sen. Merkley and proud that the Equality Act is being reintroduced as one of our priority bills in the 118th Congress,” said Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries. “This year, we’ve seen a wave of right-wing, anti-LGBTQ legislation across the nation at every level of government. House Democrats will not allow extreme MAGA Republicans to roll back progress. We are determined to get the Equality Act across the finish line so that we can ensure our nation lives up to its promise of liberty and justice for all.”

LGBTQ+ equality received a huge boost across the nation last year when President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law, enshrining federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. Further, in 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited as a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, this court ruling has not yet been nationally applied to other areas of potential discrimination—including housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, and more.

Many Americans believe that such protections are already explicitly written into federal civil rights law, but this is not the case. The Equality Act would finally enshrine these protections into federal law under all areas of potential discrimination and ensure that these essential protections for LGBTQ+ Americans are not subject to the whims of a changing court. Under the leadership of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the Equality Act passed the House twice.

“As extreme MAGA state legislators across the country continue their assault on LGBTQ+ Americans, especially the trans community, the fight against bigotry and discrimination remains urgent as ever,” Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi said. “The landmark Equality Act – twice passed by the Democratic House – would extend the crucial protections of the Civil Rights Act to all LGBTQ+ Americans, in the workplace and in every place.  Today, Congressional Democrats proudly reintroduce our Equality Act: another strong step in our fight for a future of justice, equality and dignity for all.”

“As our community continues to face attacks from all directions, every Democrat in the House came together today to send a clear message: LGBTQI+ people deserve the same protections from discrimination as every other marginalized group,” said Equality Caucus Chair Mark Pocan (WI-02). “In this moment of heightened attacks against the LGBTQI+ community, we are reminded of the importance of enshrining our equality into law. No matter an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics, they should be able to enjoy life free from discrimination.”

“No one should be treated as less than equal because of who they love or who they are.  While we’ve made big steps in the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community, there’s still more work to be done.  And as state legislatures relentlessly attack the rights and humanity of LGBTQ Americans, we must act,” said Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL). “I will keep pushing for passage of the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ Americans are fully protected under our nation’s civil rights laws.”

The full text of the Equality Act can be found here as introduced in the Senate, and here as introduced in the House.

A summary of the bill can be found here.