Lambda Legal Hails Introduction of the Equality Act

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February 18, 2021

Today, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced the introduction of the Equality Act, federal legislation that will update existing federal nondiscrimination laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act, to confirm that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is unlawful discrimination based on sex. The Equality Act clarifies sex discrimination laws to prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education, and other areas, and explicitly extends sex discrimination protections to public accommodations and federally funded programs.

Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings issued the following statement:

“Lambda Legal applauds the re-introduction of the Equality Act, long past-due federal legislation which provides clear, comprehensive, and explicit protections for LGBTQ people in federal law. Coupled with President Biden’s early action applying the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County to all federal laws currently prohibiting sex discrimination, we can see true equality on the horizon.   And it can’t happen soon enough: the LGBTQ community has been asking Congress for protections since Reps. Bella Abzug and Ed Koch first introduced the Equality Act of 1974, 47 years ago, and nearly fifty years of waiting is long enough.

“LGBTQ people across the country remain vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis and too often have little recourse. Without comprehensive federal protections, the basic rights of LGBTQ people vary state to state. In some instances, individuals lose rights and protections the moment they cross the border into a neighboring state, underscoring that the current patchwork of protections for LGBTQ people is inadequate. In addition, as evidenced by the thousands of phone calls to our Help Desk we receive each year, many employers, landlords and lenders still haven’t gotten the message that discrimination is just wrong, which is why we need the absolute clarity of the Equality Act, and we need it now.”

The Equality Act makes clear that federal law comprehensively prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It also updates the public accommodations law to add protections from discrimination in public places and services on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion where those protections are not already in existing law, such as for retail stores, transportation services like airports, taxis and bus stations, and service providers like accountants.

The Equality Act was first introduced in 2015 by U.S. Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and John Lewis (D-GA) and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

If you feel you have experienced discrimination, please contact Lambda Legal's Help Desk.