Politics

Equality Act Introduced In Congress To Expand Rights For LGBTQ Community

| by Nathaly Pesantez

On Thursday, Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives introduced legislation that would extend civil rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The Equality Act, presented by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), would protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in housing, employment, education, and public accommodations--essentially adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected groups outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bill represents the first effort by Democrats in Congress to further rights for LGBTQ Americans since the Supreme Court's landmark same-sex marriage ruling on June 26. In a Monday letter to fellow congressmen, Cicilline explained the Equality Act and called for co-sponsors, BuzzFeed News reported. “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,” Cicilline’s letter read. “A majority of states in our country do not have laws that protect LGBT individuals against discrimination.” “We need a uniform federal standard that protects all LGBT Americans from discrimination,” he added. The bill has received support from outside Congress--Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton responded to the legislation's introduction on Thursday. "The Equality Act will mean full federal equality for LGBT Americans & stronger anti-discrimination protections for everyone. Past time," she tweeted, indicated with an H initial. But the bill has also brought questions from other LGBTQ advocate groups. Heather Cronk, co-director of LGBTQ rights group GetEQUAL, said that the possibility of amending the Civil Rights Act for the Equality Act is "Way past dangerous", and that the new bill itself is not comprehensive enough to protect LGBTQ people, according to the Washington Blade. While overwhelmingly backed by Democrats, Merkley and Cicilline acknowledge the difficulty in getting their legislation to pass through the Republican-controlled Congress. "Part of the vision here is to lay out the goal and start a public dialogue," Merkley said in a Wednesday briefing. By Thursday, 40 Senators have backed the bill, while 155 House Democrats signed on as co-sponsors, according to The Huffington Post. Sources: The Huffington Post (2), The Washington Blade, BuzzFeed News Photo Credit: Joshua M Hoover 2013/Flickr