The American Humanist Association is proud to be a supporter of the Equality Act (H.R. 15 / S. 5), introduced today into the 118th Congress by Representative Mark Takano (CA-39) and Senator Jeff Merkley (OR). Perhaps more pertinent than ever, please take just a moment now to call on Congress to protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ people by cosponsoring and supporting the Equality Act.
This incredibly important piece of legislation would prohibit discrimination, much of which is religiously motivated, against LGBTQIA+ people and so much more. Not only would it amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include mandates against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but it would codify equal protections for LGBTQIA+ people within healthcare, employment, education, housing, and federally funded programs.
The Equality Act:
a) prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation;
b) expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services;
c) allows the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity; and
d) prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity. Read a one-pager on the bill here.
According to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), “eight in ten Americans (80%) favor laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. This includes 48% who strongly support such laws”. The bill is more than widely supported, with 662 organizations and more than 500 businesses officially endorsing it.
Opponents of the Equality Act have argued time and again that this bill would infringe on their religious freedoms, when we know that it’s actually the other way around: the religious right continues to use their perverse definition of religious liberty to try to legitimize and further codify discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people. It’s long past time for protections for LGBTQIA+ people in America to become codified in law, particularly as we bear witness to rising unconscionable attacks on the basic dignities of individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.
The lack of federal protections for LGBTQIA+ people leaves very few options for those who seek justice for discrimination. Unfortunately, the Religious “Freedom” Restoration Act (RFRA) has made that all the more challenging. Companies, individuals, and taxpayer-funded organizations—from foster care agencies to universities—continue to weaponize religion against LGBTQIA+ people trying to exercise basic rights.
Passing the Equality Act is essential to ensuring vital protections for the LGBTQIA+ community at a time of unprecedented violence against the community. Will you reach out to your Representative and Senators today and urge them to support the Equality Act?