Lambda Legal Applauds Introduction of Federal Nondiscrimination Bill in Congress

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July 23, 2015

Today Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline, together with lead co-sponsors Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), introduced the Equality Act, a bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, credit, education, and jury service. It also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex by those receiving federal funding and in public accommodations.

Learn more about what the bill does.

We applaud the introduction of this essential bill. Today, it spotlights the pervasive, unjust, and unacceptable discrimination facing LGBT Americans and their families; when passed, it will be a crucial next step forward in ending that discrimination. Its introduction comes nearly one month after the Supreme Court’s historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that made marriage equality the law of the land and just one week after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) landmark ruling in Baldwin v. Foxx that the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, properly understood, protect employees who suffer workplace discrimination because of their sexual orientation. LGBT equality keeps advancing because fairness is a fundamental American value.

Equality Act: Frequently Asked Questions

We have been making tremendous, long-needed progress. An increasing number of court and agency decisions now recognize that LGBT people are protected under existing sex discrimination laws, and Lambda Legal will continue our work of many years vigorously pursuing litigation to enforce these protections. We will also advocate forcefully for this essential, explicit law that removes any doubt that LGBT people must be treated fairly regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Less than half of the states have clear statutory bans on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, education and the range of settings in which everyone needs fair and equal treatment. The Equality Act is an answer to this inadequate patchwork of protections because it is a broad federal statute protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the entire country and throughout their daily lives. There are many paths to justice, and we will continue to pursue them all.

The Equality Act is essential because, while the legal landscape is evolving rapidly, LGBT Americans continue to face appalling, unjust discrimination in many aspects of their everyday lives. We know this from the thousands of calls Lambda Legal’s Help Desk gets each year from all corners of our country. Specifically, we know that workplace discrimination is one of the most frequent problems that LGBT people face. We received nearly 850 such calls in the past year alone. Workplace equality has been a top priority for Lambda Legal since our founding more than 40 years ago, and remains one today.

That’s why we need both vigorous enforcement litigation and a clear and unambiguous federal law that forbids discrimination in employment, and also in housing, credit, education and other key areas and thus insists upon full equality for the LGBT community. The Equality Act will codify the principle that a person's job performance, rather than sexual orientation or gender identity, determines success on the job, and also that when LGBT people go to the bank for a loan, apply for housing to keep a roof over their head, check into a hotel, or seek to do their civic duty and serve on a jury, they must not be turned away unfairly just because of who they are.

We thank Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI) and John Lewis (D-GA) for their leadership, and we urge Congress to act swiftly to pass this law to ensure full equality for the LGBT community.

Lambda Legal provides resources for people who experience anti-LGBT discrimination and, specifically, for those who experience workplace discrimination.

Read the press release.