Equality Act

Historic Equality Act Needed to Protect LGBT Americans
Illinois Experience Demonstrates How National Law Can Work

CHICAGO (July 23, 2015) – The historic Equality Act introduced today in the U.S. Congress is a much needed, first-ever comprehensive nationwide civil rights bill that will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from experiencing discrimination, according to Equality Illinois.

“Illinois has demonstrated that LGBT-inclusive civil rights protections are effective and can be applied nationally,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the state’s oldest and largest LGBT advocacy organization.

“In the majority of states, you can now be married one day and fired the next simply because of who you are and whom you love. The Equality Act would protect LGBT Americans from that wrong-headed behavior and so much more. We at Equality Illinois applaud its introduction,” Cherkasov said.

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. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island sponsor the legislation.

Twenty-eight states currently provide no legal protections for LGBT individuals. However, Illinois has had non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals since 2005, when the Human Rights Act was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, and housing.

“If states are the laboratories of democracy, then Illinois has proven that we can protect LGBT Americans with a strong but fair law that balances religious freedom,” Cherkasov said.

“We 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, 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,” Cherkasov said. “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. The delegation is currently composed of U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R) and Dick Durbin (D) as well as ten Democratic and seven Republican U.S. House members.

“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,” Cherkasov said. “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.”

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