On March 13, 2019 Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the Equality Act bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in various public accommodations and civil activities. Specifically, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity are classified among prohibited categories of discrimination and segregation. On May 17, 2019, the bill was passed in the House of Representatives by a 236 – 173 vote. The bill will now be sent to the U.S. Senate and if it passes there to the White House where it would need to be signed by the President to become law. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
Analysis: Human Rights Campaign called the passage of the Equality Act in the House of Representatives a historic achievement due to the fact that it is the first act passed by a house of Congress that is focused predominately on the LBGQT community. However, most Republicans in the House objected to the bill (eight Republicans switched their votes and voted to approve the bill) because of a number of criticisms. Chief among them was their claim that a bill of this nature would infringe on their religious beliefs while other more skeptical claims were put forth – elimination of women’s rights and the claim that Americans are already “tolerant.”
But is discrimination among the LGBQT community so pervasive that legislation is needed? Was Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) correct in stating that Americans are already tolerant of gays and lesbians? According to polls conducted by Human Rights Campaign, nearly two – thirds of LGBQT Americans reported incidents of discrimination. And there are currently thirty states that have no state laws that a LGBQT person could rely on to protect their job, their search for a home or in being denied a service if a business agent or employer made a negative decision because of their sexual identity or intimate personal relationship. This law would fill in the gaps of coverage nationwide and ensure that LGBQT persons would be protected from instances of discrimination that appears to be more prevalent than previously reported. Senator Mike Lee’s claim that Americans are already “tolerant” ignores the fact that LGBQT discrimination still occurs at an alarming rate and his statement even implies that LGBQT persons are not worthy enough to have their claims heard in court. An incident of LGBQT discrimination is not less deserving than any other legal complaint and deserves a chance to be heard in court and remedied in an appropriate manner.
The other criticism of this bill refers to an argument that religious groups have been trying to rely on in a number of recent cases. Religious groups often point to the First Amendment’s Freedom of Religion. They claim that as Christians their religious beliefs do not permit them to accept same – sex marriage and homosexuality and so any bill that legitimizes these issues forces them to betray their religious beliefs. However, their argument shows that these religious groups are simply using religion as a way to deny LGBQT persons the chance to participate in normal society as ordinary and accepted citizens. A LGBQT person could be denied the chance to marry a person of their choice, denied from adopting and raising children of their own and generally denied from living their lives in the manner that they choose. This religious freedom argument was famously debunked by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado when he said that it was one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric when one uses his religion to hurt others. That seems to be the case here with those who object to the Equality Act on religious grounds.
The Equality Act appears to provide more protections for those who want nothing more than to participate in American society without having to suffer because of private life choices they’ve made. For that reason, the bill is a positive enactment and the U.S. Senate and the President should put aside their silly objections and self – serving criticisms and pave the way for the bill to be enacted into law. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE
- Human Rights Campaign – non – profit group’s statement on Equality Act.
- Equality Federation – non – profit group advocating for LGBQT people to have a fair opportunity to thrive and provide for themselves in this country.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – non – profit group’s blogpost on the Equality Act.
This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Rod@USResistnews.org.