On this the 40th Anniversary of Bella Abzug’ss introduction of the *Equality Act of 1974 that would have added sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Matt Foreman lawyer and activist with a rich background in political advocacy and civil rights work has some choice words about the current version of ENDA courtesy of Tico Almedia and Freedom to Work (who helped write it and the religious exemption) that is sitting dead in the House of Representatives.
“It’s pathetic that four decades have gone by without Congress extending basic civil rights protections to LGBT Americans. It’s even more pathetic that what’s left of Bella Abzug’s comprehensive legislation (The 1974 Civil Rights Act) is ENDA – a small-bore bill that is now riddled with giveaways to anti-gay forces, including a religious exemption big enough for an 18-wheeler to cruise through. It’s time to pull the plug on this essentially lifeless corpse and demand full equality under the federal civil rights statutes.” – Matt Foreman, former executive director of the NGLTF, NYC Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, and a founding member of Heritage of Pride.
Foreman’s statement includes the Twitter hashtag #ENDAisNOTequal, which is being used by Queer Nation and others who are voicing opposition to ENDA.
* Reps. Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY) introduced the Equality Act of 1974, which sought to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act adding sexual orientation as a protected class thus banning ban discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals, unmarried persons, and women in employment, housing, and public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, museums, libraries, and retail stores. The act marked the first-ever national piece of proposed legislation that would end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the United States. It did not, however, include transgender people.
Hopes were high for passage when the act was introduced because of the increased and unprecedented media coverage gay rights issues were receiving. Also, along with the protests mentioned above, the early 1970s saw the establishment of new gay rights organizations and the first pride parades, which took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.
Further, the overall climate in the country seemed ripe for the expansion of civil rights with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have prohibited the denial of equal rights under the law on the basis of sex. (The ERA ultimately failed to be ratified by enough states to be added to the U.S. Constitution).
Unfortunately, the Equality Act of 1974 never earned enough support to make it out of committee in the House.