Post submitted by Stephen Peters, former Senior National Press Secretary and Spokesperson
Ahead of the first-ever hearing on the Equality Act tomorrow in the House Judiciary Committee, civil rights leaders and advocates joined Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon on Capitol Hill to highlight the critical need, efforts and unprecedented support for H.R. 5. The crucially important, bipartisan legislation would provide clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and strengthen existing protections for all people covered by the United States’ civil rights laws. Leaders of civil rights organizations and members of the LGBTQ community shared stories of discrimination that demonstrate the urgent need for the long overdue, historic legislation. The House Judiciary Committee and Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will hold the first hearing of the Equality Act on Tuesday April 2 at 10:00 AM.
“The Equality Act is a long time coming — the result of the courage of activists and advocates who have risked their lives, raised their voices, and demanded that we tear down the barriers to the American Dream for the LGBTQ community,” said Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5). “Every American should be able to live, work, and attend school in an environment free from hate, free from discrimination, and free from artificial limits imposed by prejudice. The Equality Act will ensure the full legal and social equality of the LGBTQ community and Congress must have the courage to codify these rights into law.”
“Tomorrow, we take an important step toward equality as Congress holds the first hearing in history on a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “For too many LGBTQ people, discrimination isn’t just a risk, it’s an everyday reality. No one’s rights should depend on the zip code they live in or which side of a state line they work on, which is why we urgently need the Equality Act.”
“Too many transgender people are denied peace, dignity, and safety, and we were reminded of the tragic consequences of that over this past weekend—on Sunday morning, we were heartbroken to learn of the death of Ashanti Carmon, a young Black transgender woman,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center of Transgender Equality. “To be sure, no single piece of legislation can hope to permanently end assault and murder against transgender people. But the Equality Act is a necessary step to point our nation in the right direction.”
“Protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination is about people, not politics. It’s about building a country where every one of us can go about our daily lives without the fear of discrimination or violence - no matter who we love, who we are, or where we live,” said Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans.
“This transformative legislation would ensure that LGBTQ people across the country have clear, consistent protections in the public sphere. And the bill would clarify our civil rights laws to strengthen protections for all people — including women, religious groups, and people of color,” said Kristine Lucius, Executive Vice President for Policy, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “When our society is more equal, we are all better for it.”
“At its best, America is defined by an abiding faith in the values of love, compassion, and respect for our common humanity,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. “I am proud to join advocates in every corner of our nation in urging Congress to pass the bipartisan Equality Act of 2019. And I hope this week’s historic hearings on the bill will bring our nation closer to finally passing this vital piece of landmark legislation.”
“We receive thousands of calls to Lambda Legal’s Help Desk each year from all corners of our country and workplace discrimination is one of the most frequent problems that LGBT people face,” said Diana Flynn, Litigation Director for Lambda Legal. “While Lambda Legal’s litigation has led an increasing number of courts and agencies across the country to recognize that LGBT people are protected under existing sex discrimination laws, the Equality Act is the ‘belt and suspenders’ that ensures these protections reach every member of our community nationally.”
“Experiencing discrimination when trying to access health care is all too common for LGBTQ people. The Equality Act is the first step in ensuring that people of all gender identities and sexual orientations get the safe, affirming, and equal health care we deserve,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, National Director of Strategic Partnerships, PPFA.
“Years ago, I served as the Global Vice President of Diversity & Communications at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. When I overtly disclosed that I was transgender, I was told by my boss, ‘We can’t have people like you working here.’ That I had just created the company’s award-winning fully inclusive Global Diversity Plan added insult to deep injury. Due to my disclosure, I suffered workplace discrimination for months and was subsequently fired. There have been silver linings — I’m proud to now serve PFLAG National and one of our partners is Marriott Hotels Worldwide, which is an award-winning, inclusive hospitality leader, of which Starwood is now a part,” said Diego M. Sanchez, Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Partnerships, PFLAG National. “We now need the silver lining of the passage of the Equality Act, and I, and hundreds of thousands of proud PFLAG parents, families, and allies, will be fighting in every zip code across the country to get this done.”
“People facing inequality and discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion are the majority of people living in this country. Yet for too many of us, our legal protections can change as we move from state to state and even city to city,” said Sabrina Joy Stevens, Senior Manager of Campaign & Digital Strategies at the National Women’s Law Center. “It is long past time for our laws to explicitly protect all of us, no matter where we live, work, and play.”
Reintroduced in Congress on March 13 by Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the House and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the Senate, the bipartisan legislation has growing, unprecedented support from nearly 70 percent of Americans, more than 280 members of Congress, more than 180 major businesses and more than 300 statewide and national organizations. Currently, 50 percent of LGBTQ Americans live in the 30 states that still lack statewide legal non-discrimination protections, leaving their residents and visitors at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service because of who they are or who they love. The legislation prioritized by Speaker Pelosi would ensure LGBTQ people are protected under the nation’s civil rights laws.