The Agenda

Landmark LGBTQ non-discrimination bill introduced in Congress

LGBTQ and allied members of Congress today introduced the Equality Act, which would expand federal legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), an openly gay member of Congress, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are the lead sponsors of the bill. The bill has a wide range of Democratic cosponsors in both the House and the Senate, including all of the openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual co-chairs of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus: Rep. Cicilline, Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. Mark Takano, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. 
“Every day, millions of LGBTQ Americans face the danger of real discrimination and sometimes even violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Cicilline wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter to other legislators. “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 explicitly ban LGBTQ discrimination in all areas of civil rights law, including credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service and public accommodations.  
Unlike the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, an employment non-discrimination standalone bill that has repeatedly failed to pass in multiple sessions of Congress, the Equality Act would amend existing civil rights laws including Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Jury Selection and Service Act. 
In short, the Equality Act would guarantee that LGBTQ Americans cannot be fired, evicted, or denied service on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 
Although passage in this Congress is said to be unlikely, the Equality Act sets an aggressive new standard for LGBTQ non-discrimination efforts at the federal level.