Historic Marriage Equality Ruling Generates Momentum for New Non-Discrimination Law

by HRC Staff

WASHINGTON - In the week since the historic Supreme Court decision that established nationwide marriage equality, LGBT advocates across the country have spoken in unison about the need for federal non-discrimination legislation. The reason for this is clear: despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, LGBT Americans lack explicit protections in federal law that prohibit discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

 “Even after this 50 state marriage victory at the Supreme Court, in most states in this country, a couple who gets married at 10 a.m. remain at risk of being fired from their jobs by noon and evicted from their home by 2 p.m. simply for posting their wedding photos on Facebook,” said Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “Transgender Americans remain disproportionately at-risk of facing discrimination--and even violence--in their daily lives. No one in our community should be at risk of being fired, evicted from their home, or denied services because of who they are or whom they love. There is an unacceptable patchwork of state-level protections for LGBT people, and more than half of LGBT Americans live in a state that lack fully-inclusive non-discrimination laws. The time has come in this country for full, federal equality, and nothing less. A federal non-discrimination bill will help finally ensure that all employees are hired, fired or promoted based on their performance. All LGBT Americans deserve a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families.”

Advocates across the country have explained in the days after the ruling how many states across the country lack non-discrimination protections in areas like employment, access to public services, housing and education, to name just a few areas. HRC released a report in December, Beyond Marriage Equality that highlighted how, historically, expansive legislation to address inequities is not unusual. The report details the history of such legislation, and highlights seven core areas where LGBT Americans lack clear, consistent federal non-discrimination protections.

Here are the headlines on the need for a federal LGBT non-discrimination bill in the days after a Supreme Court ruling:

 ‘Gays turn focus to next battles for equality’ [Knoxville News Sentinel, 7/5/15] “In Washington, congressional Democrats who for two decades have pushed for employment protections for gays and lesbians are getting ready to file legislation that will be even broader in scope…The bill’s backers are hoping to find enough support among congressional Republicans to advance the legislation in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage and a poll last spring showing 69 percent of likely voters back such a federal nondiscrimination law. The poll was conducted on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group.”

‘Republicans in Early Nominating States See Opposition to Gay Rights Fizzle’ [TIME, 7/2/15] “Nationally, 59% of Republican voters say there should be laws banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing, credit, education and public accommodations, such as hotel stays or restaurant service. Among Republican millennials—young voters—that number reaches 79% support. Twenty-three percent of Republicans surveyed said they would be more likely to support a candidate who endorses a non-discrimination bill.”

Next LGBT Battle Must Be Legislation on Employment, Housing, Education’ [Variety, 7/1/15] “(Chad Griffin, President, Human Rights Campaign) ’The next legislative focus, among HRC and our allies on the Hill, will be a comprehensive approach. Instead of looking just at employment, it would be a nondiscrimination bill that looks at employment, housing, education, everything. We need to build business support, and build bipartisan support. Particularly in this next election, we’re going to need folks in office who are willing to make it a priority, and champion it.’”

‘Gay-marriage case plaintiff Jim Obergefell visits Dallas, says fight goes on’ [The Dallas Morning News, 6/29/15] “Outside the Dallas County clerk’s office, Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in last week’s Supreme Court decision granting marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country, said the fight continues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. He called for a federal anti-discrimination law that protects them from losing jobs, housing and more, especially in states like Texas that do not have a state law that bans it.”

‘Gay Rights Activists: Fight is Only Just Getting Started’ [The Texas Tribune, 6/29/15] “But on Monday, national and state gay rights leaders and the plaintiffs who sued for marriage equality convened in front of the Texas Capitol to make a different kind of vow: The fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is not over. The next frontier, they said, is pushing for more protections against discrimination in areas including employment and housing. ‘In many states, including my home state of Ohio and right here in Texas, you can get married but then suffer consequences,” said Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the landmark case that legalized same-sex marriage. “You can get married and then lose your job, lose your home and so much more because we are not guaranteed nondiscrimination protections. … Friday’s historic ruling is a victory, but it’s just the beginning.’”

‘Texas Same Sex Marriage Advocates: National Non-Discrimination Law Next’ Goal [WOAI, 6/29/15] “Advocates of same sex marriage in Texas gathered today in Austin to celebrate their victory in the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, and plan their next move, for a nationwide Non Discrimination Law to protect gays and lesbians, News Radio 1200 reports. Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign…said the next stop will be to push for a nationwide non discrimination law which will protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.”

‘LGBT activist: Fight goes on after landmark marriage ruling’ [CBS News, 6/28/15] “Griffin called specifically for laws to protect homosexuals from discrimination in employment, housing and other areas of life, and called on Congress to act immediately toward that goal. ’In a majority of states, still today, after this ruling, you can be married at 10 a.m., fired from your job by noon, and evicted from your home by 2, simply for posting that wedding photo on Facebook,’ Griffin said of the ruling.”

‘Gay rights supporters push beyond marriage to broader legal protections’ [The Washington Post, 6/27/15] “After Friday’s ruling, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the sponsor of the legislation in that chamber, e-mailed thousands of supporters asking them to get behind the new bid because, despite the marriage decision, it is still legal in some states to ‘kick someone out of a diner or other public accommodation because of who they love.’” “More than half the states do not have laws protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, meaning that landlords, banks and restaurants in those states can discriminate.”

‘Next Fight for Gay Rights: Bias in Jobs and Housing’ [The New York Times, 6/27/15] “Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, said he planned to introduce a bill within the next few months to add protections for gays and transgender people to the Civil Rights Act. ‘People are going to realize that you can get married in the morning and be fired from your job or refused entry to a restaurant in the afternoon,’ Mr. Merkley said. ‘That is unacceptable.’”

‘After marriage, LGBT activists prepare for next challenge’ [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27/15] “The Supreme Court’s validation of same-sex marriage ‘is the brass ring — but it’s not the gold ring,’ said Fred Sainz, spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group.” “Jessica Levinson, a clinical law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says it is clear that ‘even if you have the right to be married, it doesn’t mean you are free from all discrimination — so the next frontier will be looking at discrimination laws.’ ‘You have to give couples the same rights in employment ... in hospital visits, and there are other instances of discrimination. It’s not the only question,’ she said, ‘but it may be the biggest.’”

‘Evan Wolfson: What’s Next in the Fight for Gay Equality’ [The New York Times, 6/26/15] “New national efforts like Freedom for All Americans, and statewide initiatives like Texas Wins and Freedom Indiana, are trying to apply the Freedom to Marry model to the nondiscrimination effort, joining civil rights stalwarts such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Various bills prohibiting anti-gay discrimination have been introduced in Congress over decades. In 2007, the House approved one such bill, but it became a nonstarter because it didn’t cover transgender Americans. In 2013, the Senate passed a bill that included both sexual orientation and gender identity, but it only addressed employment, and never got traction in the House. There is support on both sides of the aisle in the House; we just need to expand it.”

‘Next frontier for gays is employment and housing discrimination’ [Los Angeles Times, 6/26/15] “Only 22 states and the District of Columbia have laws against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, leaving millions of gays and lesbians without a clear right to rent an apartment, eat at a restaurant or keep their jobs. “This is the next frontier after gay marriage,” Gatewood said. Legislation to provide comprehensive federal protections for gays and lesbians nationwide is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in the House and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in the Senate.”

‘Why the Next Gay Rights Push Will Be Different’ [TIME, 6/26/15] “The Senator leading the push for a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill in Congress tells TIME that he is working with civil rights groups so the coming legislation isn’t just about being gay or lesbian. Within hours of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling granting same-sex couples the right to marry in every state, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon was laying the groundwork for a sweeping bill that would expand gay rights even further. He says he plans to introduce within the next two months.”

‘How the Supreme Court’s Marriage Ruling Puts Some Gays and Lesbians at Risk’ [TIME, 6/26/15] “While the court’s ruling in favor of gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges is a historic milestone in the gay rights movement that will help tens of thousands of Americans enjoy the benefits of a legal recognition of their unions, there is an undercurrent of risk too. In those parts of the country that do not bar discrimination in housing or employment, gay marriage may make some gays and lesbians more vulnerable….Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon has been working on a comprehensive non-discrimination bill and aides say he could introduce it to the full Senate as early as July. When he does, the 1.5 million-member Human Rights Campaign plans to advocate for it.”

‘Marriage Won, Gay Rights Battle Moves to Religious Liberty Laws’ [Bloomberg, 6/26/15] “The U.S. Supreme Court may have written the most consequential words in the history of gay rights with its recognition of same-sex marriage. But those words won’t be the last. While such unions were already legal in most of the U.S. before Friday’s ruling, 28 states don’t have laws prohibiting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Individuals in those states who lose their jobs or are refused an apartment because of sexual orientation don’t have the same rights as people elsewhere, a fact largely unchanged by the landmark decision. ‘They can get married, as is their legal right, and show up at work the next day and get fired,’ said Camilla Taylor, an attorney with the gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal.”

'Watch What It Was Like To Be At The Supreme Court When Marriage Equality Became The Law Of The Land' [The Huffington Post, 6/26/15] “In the coming weeks, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) hope to introduce comprehensive civil rights legislation protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal programs, credit and education. They said they hope that the court's ruling will give that legislation an added push. ‘I believe Americans are going to recognize that it is absolutely wrong that you have the right to marry, to be with your loved one, and yet can be kicked out of a restaurant,’ Merkley said."

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