Congressional Democrats introduced on Wednesday the Equality Act, a bill that would modify existing civil rights legislation to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit.
The bill was introduced by Senate and House Democrats at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
"In most states in this country, a gay couple can be married on Saturday, post their wedding photos to Instagram on Sunday, and lose their jobs or get kicked out of their apartments on Monday just because of who they are," said David Cicilline, D-R.I., the bill's main sponsor in the House and one of 10 openly LGBTQ members of Congress. "This is wrong."
"We are reintroducing the Equality Act in order to fix this," he added. First introduced in 2015, the Equality Act is a version of a bill introduced in 1974. In addition to adding "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the classes protected against discrimination by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the new bill specifies that it is illegal to discriminate against all protected classes in retail stores, emergency shelters, banks, transit and pharmacies, among other places.
"Right now, more than a third of LGBTQ people in the United States call the South their home, but no Southern state has passed statewide protections from anti-LGBTQ discrimination," said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. "It’s time for Congress to take action and pass federal protections now, because your rights in our country should not depend on your zip code."