As any quick Google search on “Equality Act” will show you, the right wing is working overtime to discredit this piece of historic legislation. It’s big for all of us, but utterly necessary–truly, life-changing– for those of us living in the over 30 states in which one can be legally denied employment, housing, public accommodations, you name it, simply based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Contrary to the negative hype (for examples, just check out this Advocate article), the Equality Act is not going to squash protections for anyone, or trigger a tsunami of lawsuits. In fact it will expand protections, and not only on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Want to learn more? Read on! Because below we’ve got Equality Act true facts in several formats. You may prefer simply the text of the bill itself. Or you could use an explainer video, or maybe an infographic. And for those who like their facts raw we’ve got those too, in a series of ten bullet points. Links at the bottom of the post show the sources for all the info.
And what to do, once you’ve answered your questions and are ready to act?
- Confirm whether or not your congressional representative has signed on to the Equality Act. If they have, please call or write them to thank them, and let them know you will strongly support their “yes” vote next week. Find your Representative here. Then check the H.R.5 – Equality Act cosponsors list here.
- Connect with friends and family whose representatives have not signed on, and encourage them to urge their representatives to get on the right side of history, while they still can–i.e. before their next re-election campaign!
We get it: with a majority of Senators in lock-step with a virulently anti-LGBTQ administration, we don’t expect the Act to be passed by the Senate or signed into law by the President. But passage in the House of Representatives, with a decisively strong majority, sends a powerful message to every 2020 presidential candidate: the time for unapologetic support of federal LGBTQ civil rights and protections is now.
THE BILL ITSELF: Just like the Equal Rights Amendment, the Equality Act consists of just a few, super-clear statements. Five, to be exact:
This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.
The bill expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services.
The bill allows the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.
H.R.5 – Equality Act, 116th Congress (2019-2020)
The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.
EXPLAINER VIDEO: if you (or someone you’re looking to persuade) like your overview in a quickie animation-filled video, here’s a 3-minute ditty from HRC:
INFOGRAPHIC: if you like a good infographic, here’s a beaut from UCLA’s Williams Institute:
FACTS & FIGURES: here are ten quick facts for your back pocket (or your purse! or both!):
- 42% of LGB people report experiencing discrimination on the job because of who they are;
- 78% of transgender people report experiencing discrimination on the job because of who they are;
- only 21 states have laws explicitly banning discrimination based on sexual orientation; and
- only 20 states have laws banning discrimination based on gender identity.
And, on the plus-side:
- 164 businesses–representing $3.8 trillion in revenue, 8.7 million employees, and operations in 50 states, with headquarters in 27 states–have endorsed the Equality Act
- 70% of Americans support LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws
The Equality Act would:
- amend existing law, including: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Jury Selection and Service Act;
- clarify that at the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot be used as a defense for discrimination on any basis;
- apply to the same employers as the Civil Rights Act does–namely private and public-sector employers with 15 or more employees;
- maintain exemptions that allow religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, and societies to hire only individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with their religious activities, written in such a way as to assure reasonable people that religious protections are going to operate in the same way they always have.
For further reading and where we got our numbers: “What the Equality Act Means for LGBTQ Americans,” by Trudy Ring at The Advocate, March 13, 2019; Wikipedia entry on Equality Act (United States), retrieved May 7, 2019; Public Religion Research Institute’s Fifty Years After Stonewall: Widespread Support for LGBT Issues – Findings from American Values Atlas 2018, by Daniel Greenberg et al., March 26, 2019; and UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute: “LGBT People in the U.S. Not Protected by State Nondiscrimination Statues” (opens PDF), published March 2019 and updated April 2019.