LGBT activists across the country celebrated last month as the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality, but this was in no way the end of the journey for LGBT rights. In many places, LGBT people can still face obstacles, like being fired for their sexuality or refused housing for their gender identity. But the Equality Act, introduced today, wants to change that.
Rep. David Cicilline, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Democrats from Rhode Island and Oregon, respectively, are behind this move. They want to broaden the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by making federal protections for people with regard to their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The status of LGBT rights varies across the country. As ThinkProgress reports, “Currently, no federal law enumerates LGBT protections in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, or education. For example, though same-sex couples can now marry in all 50 states, they still don’t have employment protections in 28 states.”
Transgender people tend to have fewer rights in place than that: 31 states don’t protect trans workers from being fired for being trans.
So what all would the Equality Act cover? Beyond employment and housing, the Act would:
- Prohibit stores and healthcare services from denying LGBT people
- LGBT people couldn’t be denied federal student financial aid because of who they are
- Nor could federally funded places discriminate against the community
- The Equal Credit Opportunity Act would change “husband and wife” to "spouse" to allow for access to credit
-You could no longer decline potential jurors on the basis of their being LGBT
While the bulk of the Act pertains to discrimination faced by members of the LGBT community, it also increases protection for people based on sex and race. For example, it would make it illegal to charge women more than men for the same merchandise and it would protect people of color from discrimination in public spaces, like hailing a cab.