By Don Kohn
On Friday, the NAACP emphasized its endorsement of The Equality Act of 2019, and HCDP joins America’s oldest civil rights organization in urging Congress to enact this important legislation.
“We support what it does — and we support it now,” Hilary Shelton, the organization’s D.C. bureau director, told NBC News on Friday. “It’s important that it gets through.”
Reintroduced in Congress last week, the Equality Act would modify the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes.
“We believe the same protections that we have worked for so hard over the 110 years of the NAACP should be extended to all Americans, particularly members of the LGBTQ community,” Shelton said.
At HCDP, we completely agree, and we urge Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Tom Rice to not only support this important legislation, but actively work for its passage.
In addition to the Civil Rights Act, the Equality Act would amend the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex.
The Equality Act also would update the public spaces and services covered in current law to include health care providers, retail stores, services such as banks and legal services, and transportation services. These important updates would strengthen existing protections for everyone.
Stefan Varner, chair of the Democratic LGBT Committee of Myrtle Beach, emphasized the importance of including the provision of health care in the legislation.
“LGBT people must be comfortable with someone providing their physical bodily care. Medical services must be free from bias, fear, and animosity. It’s not always that way,” he said.
“Making opportunities for all citizens equally protected means they cannot be refused or fired from gainful employment simply for being LGBT,” Varner said. That, in turn, will reduce the number of applicants for unemployment claims, ultimately benefiting all taxpayers.
“Therefore, this is the “fiscally responsible” thing to do,” added Varner. “And, that is something that our Conservative counterparts should stand for.”
The bipartisan Equality Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) on March 13, 2019. The bill was introduced with 287 original cosponsors—the most congressional support that any piece of pro-LGBTQ legislation has received upon introduction.
Learn more about this critically important legislation here.
Decades of civil rights history show that civil rights laws are effective in decreasing discrimination because they provide strong federal remedies targeted to specific vulnerable groups.
By explicitly including sexual orientation and gender identity in these fundamental laws, LGBTQ people will finally be afforded the exact same protections as other covered characteristics under federal law.
Don Kohn is the Chair of the Horry County Democratic Party