On Thursday Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Cory Booker of New Jersey will introduce legislation in Congress on Thursday to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal laws to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination,
The Equality Act would amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include employment protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Religious beliefs, race, sex, color, and national origin are already protected classes. The bill would not change existing religious exemptions for religious corporations, schools, and associations to make hiring decisions based on religious beliefs if the employee will be performing work connected with their religious activities.
The bill would also update the Government Employees Rights Act of 1991 and the Civil Service Reform Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections for federal and District of Columbia government employees.
Other areas covered in the sweeping legislation include nondiscrimination protections for those seeking child welfare, public education, student loans, healthcare or nutrition assistance. LGBT people would also be protected from discrimination in any aspect of purchasing or renting a house.
David Cicilline of Rhode Island, also a Democrat and who will be the lead sponsor in the House. Of Representatives explained the need for the legislation following the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality. Cicilline warns lawmakers that the fight for LGBT rights isn’t over; instead, it’s just begun.
“Every day, millions of LGBT Americans face the danger of real discrimination and sometimes even violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Cicilline writes. “In most states, a same-sex couple can get married on Saturday, post pictures on Facebook on Sunday, and then risk being fired from their job or kicked out of their apartment on Monday.”
The Bill would also clarify that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot be used to defend discrimination against LGBT people and clarifies that sex-segregated facilities must admit individuals in accordance to their gender identity, and that it applies to anyone discriminated against because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or association with a protected class. And while many are applauding the bill there are some in our community that are worried about it also.
Heather Cronk and Angela Peoples, of the small grassroots organization GetEQUAL (It’s hard to call GE an LGBT rights organization now since they actually spend very little time on LGBT/Protection issues any more time and have focused more on immigration and race issues) call The Equality Act “dangerous,” fearing right-wing lawmakers would not only strip the bill of its intended protections with amendments, but also gut the civil rights laws being amended.
Rep. Cicilline and Sen. Merkley will hold a news conference on Thursday to announce the legislation’s introduction.