LGBTQ Americans will gain further protections as U.S. lawmakers take additional steps to stamp out discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Once again, U.S. Congress is giving serious consideration to revising the 1964 Civil Rights Act, expanding its protections through what is known as the Equality Act.
The Equality Act would bring new dimensions to the 1964 Civil Rights Act by amending the current federal law to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, civil rights would be extended to members of the LGBTQ community. Also, it would be illegal to discriminate in such areas as employment, housing, education, medical care, adoption, foster care, federally funded programs and public accommodations such as retail stores and stadiums.
U.S. House passes bill in February
The bill has a lengthy history, having been previously introduced many times. Most recently, the Equality Act passed the U.S House of Representatives in 2019 but stalled and eventually died in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. In late February, the House voted to pass the bill, which President Biden has championed and considers historic legislation.
A significant aspect of the Equality Act notes that it would eclipse the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) from 1993. That RFRA made it more difficult for the government to defend laws if people objected to them by claiming infringement on their religious freedoms. Under the Equality Act, an organization or individual could not rely on the RFRA to challenge the law or use it as a defense.
State, local and municipal governments are watching closely, and so are employers and the people who work for them. Workplace discrimination of any kind should not be accepted or tolerated. The Equality Act represents a step toward protecting all workers.