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Equality Act (United States)

  (Redirected from Equality Act of 2015)

The Equality Act is a bill in the United States Congress, that, if passed, would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.[1] As of 2019, 20 states have outlawed LGBT discrimination, with members of the LGBT community being given little protection at a national level[2][3]. The Equality Act would lead to nationwide anti-LGBT discrimination laws.[1]

Equality Act
Great Seal of the United States
Legislative history
United States Supreme Court cases
R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Many scientists, legal experts, and medical practitioners have shown support to the Equality Act. The American Psychological Association as well as the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association have released statements supporting the Equality Act.[4] Human rights groups, businesses, and other associations also supported it.[5]

The Equality Act was jointly introduced in both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate on March 13, 2019. The bill has received support and opposition from both Republican and Democratic.

President Donald Trump opposes the bill in its current form due to "poison pills" that would threaten the rights of others.[6], but expressed support for LGBT anti-discrimination.

Republicans and some feminists have expressed concern over the privacy and safety of women, with respect to the act's "lack of clarity" on right of transgender persons in women's restrooms and locker/fitting rooms.[7][8]. Religious groups have also expressed concern, over the broad scope of the act and the impingement of religious rights and publicly funded abortions.[9] Parent's rights groups have expressed concern over the lack of parental consent in transgender hormone and surgical therapies, even for young children. [10][11]

The Equality Act passed the United States House of Representatives on May 17, 2019. It is currently awaiting consideration by the United States Senate.[12]

Contents

Purpose and content

 
The Equality Act would uniformly apply anti-LGBT discrimination law in the United States. Current anti-discrimination laws by jurisdiction as of May 2019:
  State law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public employment, private employment, housing, and provision of goods and services
  State law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation (but not gender identity) in public employment, private employment, housing, and provision of goods and services
  State law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public and private employment, but not in other areas such as housing and provision of goods and services
  State law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Some states may have related executive orders, but their scope is very limited as they only protect public state employees against discrimination.

Polling has shown that nearly two-thirds of Americans identified as LGBT report having experienced discrimination in their personal lives.

As of 2019, twenty-one states and Washington, D.C. have comprehensive laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, most other states do not include any legal protections against LGBT discrimination. The Equality Act will approximate current state anti-discrimination laws on a national level, providing a blanket of protection against discrimination throughout the country. The Equality Act seeks to incorporate protections against LGBT discrimination into the federal Civil Rights law. It also seeks to expand existing protections for other minority groups by updating the definition of public accommodations.[1]

The Equality Act updates the definitions of three terms:[13]

  • "sex" to include a sex stereotype, sexual orientation or gender identity, and pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition
  • "sexual orientation" as homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality
  • "gender identity" as gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or characteristics, regardless of the individual's assigned sex at birth.

The Equality Act expands the categories of "public accommodations" to include places or establishments that provide:[13]

  • Exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays
  • Goods, services, or programs, including a store, a shopping center, an online retailer or service provider, a salon, a bank, a gas station, a food bank, a service or care center, a shelter, a travel agency, a funeral parlor, or a health care, accounting, or legal service
  • Transportation services
  • It prohibits "establishment" from being construed to be limited to a physical facility or place.[13]

History

Early History (1970s-1990s)

The original Equality Act was developed by U.S. Representatives Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY) in 1974. The Equality Act of 1974 sought to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and marital status in federally assisted programs, housing sales, rentals, financing, and brokerage services. The bill authorized civil actions by the Attorney General of the United States in cases of discrimination on account of sex, sexual orientation, or marital status in public facilities and public education. On June 27, 1974, the bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, but did not proceed to a vote in the full United States House of Representatives.[14]

From 1994, the more narrow Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced, but faced the most opposition over whether Transgender Americans would be protected. An expanded version of ENDA which included both sexual orientation and gender identity in its protections passed the United States Senate of the 113th United States Congress in 2013, but did not advance in the House. Opposition to LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination law continues to focus on transgender people, and this opposition comes up in other, related legislation with LGBT protections.[15]

The Modern Day (2000s-2010s)

The Equality Act has gotten support from national civil rights organizations (including the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League and the Human Rights Campaign), international human rights organizations (including Human Rights Watch), major professional associations (including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Bar Association), and major businesses (including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, IBM, Facebook, Twitter, Visa, Mastercard, Intel, and Netflix).[5][16] The United States is currently one of the few Western nations not to outlaw anti-LGBT discrimination in employment nationally.

Public opinion

A nationwide and state-by-state poll on the issue conducted throughout 2017 by the Public Religion Research Institute as part of the annual American Values Atlas survey revealed that 70% of Americans, including a majority in every state, supported laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people against discrimination, while 23% opposed such laws, and 8% had no opinion.[17][18][19]

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in April 2019 found that 92% of American voters believed that employers should not be allowed to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or sexual identity, while only 6% believed that employers should be allowed to do so. A wide consensus on this question was found among both Democratic and Republican voters, as well as Independents, although Democratic voters were slightly more likely to believe that this kind of discrimination should be illegal, with only 1% of them believing that employers should be allowed to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or sexual identity.[20]

Support and opposition

Support

The Equality Act is supported by more than 330 organizations and over 180 businesses, notably:[21][22]

Businesses

Charities and non-profits

Religious organizations

Public Religion Research Institute and Quinnipiac polling has shown support for LGBT anti-discrimination laws from all religious demographics.[19][20]

The act has also received support from faith leaders from a variety of faith-based religions and traditions.[23] They are — but not exclusively include — Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Hindus, Unitarian Universalists, amid others.

Catholic theologian and nun Joan Chittister released a statement calling for Christians to support the Equality Act, saying:

“The God who made us all loves us all and wants us all to be able to live free and full everywhere. It is that God my religion enabled me to know and it is that religion that assures me that the Equality Act must be passed, must be extended, and must be lived if religion itself is to be true.”[28]

Opposition

Republican leaders cited opposition to the bill for reasons that it would undermine parents choices regarding early childhood gender re-assignment.[29]. Concerns were also raised by Democrat and "radical feminist" Kara Dansky and the Women's Liberation Front [30], that this would put the privacy and safety of women and girls at risk, especially in washrooms and change-rooms. [31]

Several religious groups and religious commentators have also expressed concern the possible ramifications of this act.

The American Family Association published an article in April 2019 by fundamentalist Protestant and social commentator Bryan Fischer coming out against the act, writing that discrimination against the LGBT community is a "social good" and "what public policy is all about."[32] "There is no equality in this bill for anyone who believes that homosexuality is non-normative sexual behavior and something that should not be promoted, subsidized, and celebrated, especially in our schools." He went on to call it the "Homosexual Supremacy Act", saying that "child[ren] will be condemned to the psychological torment of this dissonance until the day they commit suicide... which 41% of transgenders do".[32]

On May 13, 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement that opposed the Equality Act over concerns of religious liberty. The statement mentioned “The Equality Act now before Congress is not balanced and does not meet the standard of fairness for all. While providing extremely broad protections for LGBT rights, the Equality Act provides no protections for religious freedom".[33] [34]

On March 20, 2019, three members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sent Congress a letter that opposed the Equality Act on the grounds of freedom of expression and freedom of religion, among other reasons.[35] On May 7, 2019 they reaffirmed its opposition to the Equality Act by sending Congress a letter, which, while acknowledging other concerns, focused on freedom of religion.[36]

Legislative activity

114th Congress

H.R. 3185

On July 23, 2015, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the Equality Act of 2015 in the United States House of Representatives. The bill was supported by President Barack Obama.[37]

In January 2016, Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL) became the first Republican Representative to co-sponsor the bill.[38] Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) became the second Republican to co-sponsor the bill in September 2016.

S. 1858

On July 23, 2015, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Equality Act of 2015 in the United States Senate.

In January 2016, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) became the first and only Republican Senator to co-sponsor the bill.

All Democrats and Independents cosponsored the bill with the exception of Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

115th Congress

H.R. 2282

On May 2, 2017, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the Equality Act of 2017 in the United States House of Representatives.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) was the only Republican to co-sponsor the bill from the outset, with Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) becoming the second Republican to co-sponsor the bill on May 26, 2017.

S. 1006

On May 2, 2017, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Equality Act of 2017 in the United States Senate.

All Democrats and Independents cosponsored the bill with the exceptions of Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

116th Congress

H.R. 5

On March 13, 2019, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the Equality Act of 2019 in the United States House of Representatives. The bill is sponsored by 237 Democrats and 3 Republicans. On May 1, 2019, the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 22-10, with all Democratic members of the committee voting in favor and all Republican members against.[39] A vote by the full House was held on May 17, 2019; the vote carried with 236 votes for and 173 against. Eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill and no Democrats opposed it.[12][40]

S. 788

On March 13, 2019, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Equality Act of 2019 in the United States Senate. The bill is sponsored by 43 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 1 Republican.

Legislative history

Congress Short title Bill number(s) Date introduced Sponsor(s) # of cosponsors Latest status
114th Congress Equality Act of 2015 H.R. 3185 July 23, 2015 David Cicilline
(D-RI)
178 Died in committee
S. 1858 July 23, 2015 Jeff Merkley
(D-OR)
42 Died in committee
115th Congress Equality Act of 2017 H.R. 2282 May 2, 2017 David Cicilline
(D-RI)
198 Died in committee
S. 1006 May 2, 2017 Jeff Merkley
(D-OR)
47 Died in committee
116th Congress Equality Act of 2019 H.R. 5 March 13, 2019 David Cicilline
(D-RI)
240 Passed the House[12]
S. 788 March 13, 2019 Jeff Merkley
(D-OR)
46 Referred to committee

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "The Equality Act". Human Rights Campaign.
  2. ^ "Equality Act returns — with House Democrats in majority". Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights. 2019-03-13. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  3. ^ March 28, Katy Steinmetz; 2019. "Why Federal Laws Don't Explicitly Ban Discrimination Against LGBT Americans". Time. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  4. ^ Cicilline, David (June 8, 2017). "June 2017 Statement on the Equality Act" (PDF). American Psychological Association. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "334 ORGANIZATIONS ENDORSING THE EQUALITY ACT" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign.
  6. ^ "Trump opposes federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill, citing 'poison pills'". Https:. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  7. ^ "House approves bill prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination". Https:. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  8. ^ "Why These Feminists Oppose Pelosi's Equality Act". Https:. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  9. ^ "The Democrat House Just Passed the Misnamed 'Equality Act,' an Intolerant Bill That Would Promote Abortion, Erase Religious Freedom, and Undermine the Women's Rights Feminists Have Fought For". Https:. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  10. ^ "Feminist & LGBTQ Activist Warns Equality Act 'Eradicates' Female Group, 'Grave Consequences for Women and Girls'". Https:. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  11. ^ "The Democrat House Just Passed the Misnamed 'Equality Act,' an Intolerant Bill That Would Promote Abortion, Erase Religious Freedom, and Undermine the Women's Rights Feminists Have Fought For". Https:. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c Killough, Ashley (May 17, 2019). "Houses passes Equality Act to increase protections for sexual orientation and gender identity". CNN.
  13. ^ a b c "H.R.3185 - Equality Act". United States Congress. July 23, 2015.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  14. ^ "Congress - Equality Act". United States Congress. 2017.
  15. ^ Steinmetz, Katy (2013-03-21). "Why Federal Laws Don't Explicitly Ban Discrimination Against LGBT Americans". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  16. ^ "Business Coalition for the Equality Act". Human Rights Campaign.
  17. ^ "Emerging Consensus on LGBT Issues: Findings From the 2017 American Values Atlas". Public Religion Research Institute.
  18. ^ "PRRI - American Values Atlas". Public Religion Research Institute.
  19. ^ a b "70% Of Americans Support LGBT Anti-Discrimination Laws". NewNowNext.
  20. ^ a b University, Quinnipiac (May 2, 2019). "U.S. Voters Still Say 2-1 Trump Committed Crime, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; But Voters Oppose Impeachment 2-1". QU Poll. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  21. ^ "334 ORGANIZATIONS ENDORSING THE EQUALITY ACT" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign.
  22. ^ "Business Coalition for the Equality Act". Human Rights Campaign.
  23. ^ Woodiwiss, Catherine (December 9, 2016). "Faith Leaders to Trump Administration: Support and Protect LGBTQ Rights". Sojourners Community. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  24. ^ Martin, James (May 16, 2019). "Statement on Equality Act". Twitter. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  25. ^ O’Loughlin, Michael (May 16, 2019). "Some Catholic Advocates Support Equality Act". America Magazine. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  26. ^ Staff (May 10, 2019). "DignityUSA Letter to US Senators re Equality Act, S. 788 (2019): Catholics of Both Parties Support Equality". DignityUSA. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  27. ^ a b c d e Kuruvilla, Carol (May 14, 2019). "Interfaith Groups Rally In Support Of Equality Act For LGBTQ Rights". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  28. ^ Massey, Sarah (March 13, 2019). "As Congress Introduces the Equality Act, Faith Leaders Speak Out in Support of LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Protections". Religious Institute. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  29. ^ "Feminist & LGBTQ Activist Warns Equality Act 'Eradicates' Female Group, 'Grave Consequences for Women and Girls'". Https:. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  30. ^ "Women's Liberation Front". Womensliberationfront.org. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  31. ^ "Why These Feminists Oppose Pelosi's Equality Act". Https:. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  32. ^ a b Fischer, Bryan (April 4, 2019). "It's Not the Equality Act, It's the Homosexual Supremacy Act". American Family Association. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  33. ^ "LDS Church comes out against Equality Act, saying LGBTQ rights bill doesn't ensure religious freedom". The Salt Lake Tribune. May 13, 2019.
  34. ^ "LDS Church comes out against Equality Act, saying LGBTQ rights bill doesn't ensure religious freedom - The Salt Lake Tribune". Https:. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  35. ^ USCCB 3-20-19 Letter to Congress on the Equality Act
  36. ^ May 7, 2019 Letter of USCCB On Equality Act
  37. ^ "President Obama Endorses Equality Act". Out. November 10, 2015.
  38. ^ "Bob Dold of Illinois Is First Republican Cosponsor of Equality Act". The Advocate. January 15, 2016.
  39. ^ "House Judiciary Committee passes Equality Act". Washington Blade.
  40. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2019/roll217.xml

Attribution:

External links