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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 12, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 19
Congressional Democrats reintroduce LGBT Equality Act
Section One
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Congressional Democrats reintroduce LGBT Equality Act

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Congressional Democrats reintroduced the Equality Act with a May 2 press conference in the US Capitol.

The bill, first introduced in 2015, would add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to US civil rights laws, and bar discrimination against LGBT people in employment, public accommodations, federal funding, and other areas where discrimination is already prohibited for other protected classes.

The measure is sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and has some 240 co-sponsors, including Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

Referring to Donald Trump as the 'bully-in-chief,' Murray, speaking at the Democrats' press conference, recited a litany of Trump administration moves rolling back legal protections for LGBT Americans.

'In one of his first actions, President Trump - working alongside Attorney General Sessions and Secretary of Education DeVos - withdrew guidance for schools on the equal treatment of transgender students,' she said.

'The Civil Rights Department at HHS is now run by Roger Severino, a frankly appalling choice, who once hailed North Carolina's transgender bathroom bill as 'commonsense' policy. President Trump's nominee for Secretary of the Army, Mark Green, has a long record of making bigoted, hateful comments about LGBTQ people, including those in uniform. On President Trump's watch, federal agencies are rolling back efforts to collect data on the needs of LGBTQ Americans from critical surveys, including LGBTQ people with disabilities and older Americans.'

Because Republicans hold majorities in both the House and Senate, the bill is not likely to go anywhere in the foreseeable future, but its reintroduction was greeted as a hopeful sign by LGBT activists.

Gavin Grimm, a Transgender high school student whose lawsuit asking for the right to use gender-appropriate restrooms is still pending in federal court, said the measure could help LGBT people live with dignity.

'I have had to fight for years to be treated by my school as the young man that I am,' he said in a statement.

'Discrimination remains a daily part of life for far too many LGBT people across our country. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with dignity. That is all I have ever wanted for myself, and is something the Equality Act could help make real.

'I am only one person, but I know that I am not alone. I am proud to fight alongside the ACLU, members of Congress, and so many others who are working to ensure a better future for LGBT people.'

'Despite the significant progress we've made toward equality in the last decade, the Trump administration's attacks on LGBTQ people show just how swiftly many of these hard-fought changes can be rolled back,' said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.

'That is why we need strong federal nondiscrimination legislation for LGBTQ people in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, publicly funded programs, access to credit, and jury service.'

'No person's fundamental rights should be determined by which side of a state line they live on,' said HRC president Chad Griffin.

'The Equality Act will once and for all end the unacceptable patchwork of nondiscrimination laws across this country that leaves LGBTQ people at risk. Every American should have a fair chance to earn a living, provide for their families, and live their lives without fear of discrimination. And at its core, that's what the Equality Act is all about.'

HRC also released a list of 92 US corporations - from Abercrombie & Fitch to Xerox - that support the legislation.

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