Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a member of the Congressional LGBT Caucus, issued a statement May 17 after voting to pass H.R. 5, the Equality Act.
This bill includes historic protections for the LGBTQ community by extending anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ individuals with regard to employment, education, access to credit, jury service, federal funding, housing and public accommodations. Blunt Rochester is an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act. Today’s vote on the Equality Act coincides with International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and the bill passed the House by a vote of 236-173.
“Over the past decades, our society has made significant progress with regard to LGBTQ equality, but legal protections for the LGBTQ community have not kept pace with those changes. Far too many across our country face discrimination at their job, in their classroom and from their government — all legal under current federal law. Today, I was proud to stand on the right side of history and take a monumental step forward in the name of equality,” said Blunt Rochester. “Our LGBTQ community in Delaware and across the country deserves to know that we see you, we hear you and we celebrate you for who you are and who you love. Our state has always been a leader on LGBTQ equality, and I am proud to cast my vote in the name of hope, love and equality for all.”
Despite significant legal advances over the past several years, including marriage equality, LGBTQ Americans remain vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis and too often have little recourse. Fifty percent of the national LGBTQ community live in states where, though they have the right to marry, they have no explicit non-discrimination protections in other areas of daily life.
Only 21 states have explicit laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations, and only 20 states have such protections for gender identity. In most states, a same-sex couple can get married one day and legally denied service at a restaurant, be fired from their jobs or evicted from their apartment the next.
The Equality Act amends existing federal civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, Federal jury service, public accommodations and the use of federal funds. It does so by adding sex in some places where it had not previously been protected, and clarifying that sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity. H.R. 5 amends:
— Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide basic protections against discrimination in public accommodations by adding sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
— Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide basic protections against discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance by adding sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
— Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991, and the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to make explicit protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
— The Fair Housing Act to make protections against housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity explicit.
— The Equal Credit Opportunity Act to make protections against credit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity explicit.
— The Jury Selections and Services Act to make protections against discrimination in federal jury service based on sexual orientation or gender identity explicit.