Federal ‘Equality Act’


UPDATE on October 28, 2015:
House panel blocks vote on Equality Act


Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) sought on Wednesday to bring up for the first-time ever in the U.S. House a vote on comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation, but his attempt was thwarted by a ruling the measure wasn’t germane to the matter at hand.

Polis, the most senior openly gay member of the U.S. House, offered up the Equality Act as an amendment during the House Committee on Education & The Workforce’s consideration of the Republican-crafted Protecting Local Business Act, which is anti-union legislation for small businesses.

Read The Washington Blade Report

equality_act-blogThere are no comprehensive federal non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, though there are federal rules and policies prohibiting discrimination regarding some specific topics. To remedy that, the historic Equality Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress on July 23, 2015. The Act is a much-needed, first-ever nationwide civil rights bill that will protect LGBT Americans from experiencing discrimination.
The Equality Act amends existing federal civil rights laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to protect LGBT Americans in seven areas: employment, education, credit, housing, public services and space, federal funding, and jury service.  By adding sexual orientation and gender identity to existing laws, LGBT Americans will be afforded the same equal protections as other protected groups without writing new civil rights law.

Equality Act intro

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon (at lectern) and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island (left) introduced the Equality Act on July 23, 2015

The Equality Act is H.R. 3185 in the U.S. House and S. 1858 in the U.S. Senate. Ten members of the Illinois congressional delegation have already signed on as co-sponsors: Sen. Dick Durbin (D), Rep. Bobby Rush (D), Rep. Robin Kelly (D), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D), Rep. Mike Quigley (D), Rep. Danny Davis (D), Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D), Rep. Bill Foster (D), and Rep. Cheri Bustos (D).
However, nine other members (there is one vacant seat) have not indicated their support of the bill, and supporters of the Equality Act are urged to get involved by directly contacting the members and signing our petition, which will be presented to the delegation:


Sen. Mark Kirk (R) – 202-224-2854
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D) – 202-225-5701
Rep. Peter Roskam (R) – 202-225-4561
Rep. Bob Dold (R) – 202-225-4835
Rep. Mike Bost (R) – 202-225-5661
Rep. Rodney Davis (R) – 202-225-2371
Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) – 202-225-2976
Rep. John Shimkus (R) – 202-225-5271
Rep. Adam Kinziger (R) – 202-225-3635
Don’t know who your U.S. Representative is? Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Previous attempts to end discrimination on the national level focused on the workplace, which the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) sought to remedy. After many attempts, ENDA passed the Senate in 2013 with a strong bipartisan majority but was never called for a vote in the House. With Congress not acting on the need for federal protections, President Obama signed an executive order in July, 2014, prohibiting employment discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors against LGBT workers. Its effective date is April 8, 2015.
Learn more about the executive order at the U.S. Department of Labor website.
The Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination in providing health care and insurance.
Movement leaders began discussing a more comprehensive approach, which gained impetus as more states and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the right of same-sex marriage.
No Gay Allowed imageTwenty-eight states currently provide no legal protections for LGBT individuals. However, Illinois has had non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals since 2005, when the state’s Human Rights Act was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, and housing.
LGBT Illinoisans fought long and hard for and are proud of the non-discrimination protections enshrined in Illinois law. However, when a LGBT Illinoisan crosses the Mississippi River into Missouri or crosses the border into Indiana or Kentucky, his or her legal protections vanish. For example, they can be denied a hotel room or a restaurant meal or a job simply for being who they are. This is unacceptable and proof of the need for the Equality Act.
Equality Illinois will work to build support for the Equality Act among the members of the Illinois congressional delegation. In Illinois, we are proud that every pro-equality law passed the state legislature with bipartisan support. It is important now for the Illinois congressional to demonstrate to the U.S. House and Senate in Washington that same bipartisan support. We urge all members of the Illinois congressional delegation – Republicans and Democrats – to follow the Land of Lincoln’s lead by supporting and co-sponsoring the Equality Act.