Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Historic Hearing on Equality Act

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US Capitol Building in Washington, DC

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first-ever hearing on S. 383, the Equality Act, which would update federal civil rights law to ensure explicit and comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people from discrimination in virtually every area of life. The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives in a bipartisan victory last month.

“Today’s Equality Act hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee is a milestone in our community’s 50-year fight to secure full LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections,” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans, the bipartisan campaign to secure LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections nationwide. “The stories of today’s witnesses and their loved ones in support of the Equality Act reflect the experiences of millions of LGBTQ people in America today who continue to face and fear discrimination. They are the face of all the hopes, dreams and challenges that are wrapped up inextricably with the fate of this long-sought and broadly-supported legislation. We are confident Senators will hear these stories, open their hearts and join the overwhelming bipartisan supermajority of Americans who have concluded this country is ready to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination nationwide. Passing this legislation is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and the Senate should stand on the right side of history.”

Bipartisan consensus for nationwide LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections is rising quickly. Public support is at an all-time high and polls show that a growing bipartisan supermajority of Americans support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination: in a 2020 PRRI survey, more than eight in ten Americans (83%), including majorities of Independents (85%) and Republicans (68%), expressed support for these protections.

“The Equality Act is common sense legislation that will ensure everyone has the freedom and opportunity to work hard, earn a living, provide for their families, and contribute to their communities,” said  John Fluharty, a member of Conservatives Against Discrimination and former executive director of the Delaware Republican Party. “Discrimination is not a conservative value, and it’s certainly not an American value. Opportunities should not be withheld based on who you are or who you love. Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate must work together to find a federal solution to LGBTQ discrimination and affirm freedom and fairness for our LGBTQ friends, family, and community members.”

The Equality Act would ensure protections for LGBTQ people from discrimination in all areas of life, including housing, employment, federally-funded programs and services, and public places such as restaurants, stores, hospitals, and more. A majority of states currently lack these protections, leaving more than 50% of the country’s LGBTQ population – millions of Americans – vulnerable to discrimination.

The Equality Act is supported by nearly 400 businesses and industry associations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In its testimony in support of the legislation, the America Competes coalition of businesses wrote: “Nondiscrimination protections that are updated to include LGBTQ Americans will ensure maximum operational stability, flexibility, and agility for employers that are driving the American economy. Such protections will also unlock hidden potential among LGBTQ workers who might not currently feel they can fully be themselves at work or in their communities, and for those parents of LGBTQ kids who currently bear the weight of daily worries about their family’s safety. … It is for these reasons that we are proud to support the Equality Act, legislation that reflects shared American values, is broadly supported by the American people, and represents opportunity for innovation, growth and prosperity.”

The urgency and momentum for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections over recent years is undeniable. According to a 2020 study, one in three LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination in the previous year, including three in five transgender Americans. The Equality Act’s protections will help curb discrimination that real people face in their lives. The bill is about people like Jody Davis in Ohio, a Christian and veteran who was denied housing and refused service at a store because she is a transgender woman. It would affect Chris Chun in Texas, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army and father to a transgender girl whose safety he worries about every day.

The Equality Act would deter incidents that happen to people like Randal Coffman in Florida, who was evicted by his landlord for being gay. For people like Bailey and Samantha Brazzel, who simply wanted to file their taxes but were turned away by a tax preparer in Indiana because they are a same-sex couple, the Equality Act makes clear that turning them away because of who they are is impermissible. And for same-sex couples like Krista and Jami Contreras in Michigan, who had to find a new healthcare provider for their six-day-old newborn after the doctor they’d chosen turned them away for being lesbians, the Equality Act could be lifesaving. The scope of discrimination that LGTBQ Americans face is not fully quantifiable but it is well-documented.

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