A bill is expected to be introduced to Congress this week that would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill, known as the Equality Act, would prohibit discrimination in public places and in employment. Right now, there is not a national-level law prohibiting discrimination against queer Americans, and about 50% of LGBTQ Americans live in places without state or local level anti-discrimination protections. This will be the third time the Equality Act is proposed.
The Act was first introduced in 2015 by Sen. Jeff Merkley from Oregon and Rep. David Cicilline from Rhode Island with three corporate sponsors. The bill originally died in committee and was not given a final vote. The same thing happened when a new version of the Equality Act was introduced in 2017. This time, however, the Act may have a better chance of success because it has major backing from 161 corporations throughout the United States.
“The more than 160 leading American companies that have joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act are sending a loud and clear message that the time has come for full federal equality,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in an official statement, “By standing with the LGBTQ community and joining the fight to pass the Equality Act, these companies are demanding full federal equality for the more than 11 million LGBTQ people in this country who deserve to earn a living, raise their families and live their lives free from discrimination.”
Although the bill has previously been killed in committee, it has a chance to pass in the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives. It is not clear whether it will pass in Congress, where Republicans still control the majority vote.
“A level playing field ensures that merit is the only factor that allows someone to succeed in business,” National LGBT Chamber of Commerce Co-Founder & CEO Chance Mitchell told CNBC of the Act, “Think of the endless opportunities to contribute to the economy that await the LGBT business community when they are no longer afraid of being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, denied service in restaurants and shops simply for being who they are.”