Congressman John Delaney (D-MD6) is an original cosponsor of the Equality Act, a national measure introduced in Congress this past Thursday to protect LGBT Americans against discriminations in credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service and public accommodations.
The bill was authored by Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI1).
“The Equality Act is about ensuring fairness, justice and opportunity for every American,” said Delaney. According to Delaney, gender identity and sexual orientation were not addressed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a historic national measure that banned religion and race based discrimination. Consequently, measures addressing discrimination against LGBT Americans are currently made at the discretion of states.
“Some states and local jurisdictions have updated their statutes to disallow discrimination against LGBT Americans, but many others haven’t. Some states have even proactively allowed discrimination,” explained Delaney. “The Equality Act is comprehensive legislation to create civil rights protections nationwide.”
According to Keith Thirion, Director of Advocacy and Programs at Equality Maryland, currently, Maryland has state wide statutes protecting LGBT citizens against discrimination in housing and employment. However, the anti-discrimination clause for LGBT Americans is absent in many other places. Moreover, even in states with explicit anti-discrimination statutes, the LGBT communities are oftentimes still targeted for or excluded from certain social services.
“The Act sends a powerful message that discrimination against one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is just wrong,” Thirion said.
“In a lot of states, LGBT Americans could still be fired for their sexual orientation or denied access to an apartment because of who they are. I don’t think that’s right,” Delaney added.
The Equality Act has over 150 cosponsors. Just a month ago, a landmark Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage with a majority of 5-4 justices.
Equality Act supporters expect opposition to the bill. “Unfortunately, there is still some resistance to LGBT rights, but I am confident that attitudes are changing,” Delaney said.
“We expect some Republicans to push back,” said Thirion, “but the Equality Act certainly shows the progress in this country.” The omnibus bill will potentially eliminate all sources of discrimination and fully integrate the LGBT community, Thirion expressed.
So far, no Republican member of the Congress has signed on to back the measure. The Equality Act includes exemptions for religious corporations, schools and associations in certain criteria.
At its heart, the bill advocates for a simple idea—discrimination against LGBT Americans should be illegal, according to Delaney.
Cicilline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD8) is also a co-sponsor of the bill.