Merkley Announces Plan for Sweeping LGBT Civil Rights Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley announced his plan to push broad LGBT civil rights legislation today before a meeting of the Center for American Progress (CAP).  In his keynote speech for the event “We The People: Why Congress Must Pass a Comprehensive LGBT Non-Discrimination Act,” Merkley laid out his rationale and plan for across the board protections for LGBT Americans and announced that he will be working with advocates and congressional partners in 2015 to draft and pass such legislation.

The event featured the rollout of a major CAP report detailing the harmful effects LGBT discrimination has on individuals and communities throughout the nation.

“In dozens of states across the country, LGBT Americans lack the basic nondiscrimination protections that so many of us take for granted,” said Merkley. “In North Carolina today, a gay man could be fired from his job just for being gay. In Michigan, a young couple could be denied the chance to buy their first home just because they’re both women. In Pennsylvania, a transgender woman could be denied service and kicked out of a restaurant just for being who she is. And all of this would be perfectly legal.

“Americans would be shocked to realize how much discrimination is still legal in our nation today. It’s time for a comprehensive federal nondiscrimination act that will guarantee equality to every LGBT American.”

Citing his work to advance LGBT rights in Oregon in the face of strong opposition, Merkley drew parallels to the fight for federal legislation and called for the first comprehensive national non-discrimination legislation in four decades, and the first that would be fully inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity. 

In Oregon, Merkley led the successful fight as Speaker of the Oregon House to pass a comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination bill in 2007.

“I firmly believe that, like Oregon, the Unites States is on a trajectory toward equality,” Merkley said. “As Lyndon B. Johnson said, it is time now to write the next chapter – and to write it in the books of law.”