The federal law currently does not include explicit nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer people. LGBTQ identifying individuals in about half our states are vulnerable to discrimination in critical areas like employment, housing, and education, simply for being who they are. This is why we need the Equality Act now – to make clear that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal sex discrimination.
What’s at stake?
According to 2017 data from Gallup, 10 million Americans identify as LGBTQ. In schools, our Let Her Learn Survey reveals that nearly 1 in 4 girls nationwide (24 percent) identify as LGBTQ, and sadly, 87% of LGBTQ students experienced harassment or assault in 2017 school year. In the workplace, a study by the Williams Institute shows that one in four LGBTQ employees report experiencing employment discrimination in the last five years.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration continues its blatant and persistent attacks on the LGBTQ community, including its recent ban on transgender troops. And next term the Supreme Court will be deciding three cases focused on whether the federal ban on sex discrimination in the workplace applies to LGBTQ people, including the cases of Donald Zarda and Aimee Stephens.
What is it?
The Equality Act would:
- Clarify that key federal civil rights laws provide explicit protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, credit, education and other federally funded programs, and federal jury service;
- Close gaps in current federal law by prohibiting sex discrimination in public spaces and services, such as stores, restaurants, hotels, transportation and health care services.
- Expand protections on the basis of race, religion, and national origin in public spaces
Passing the Equality Act would mean, for example:
- Mechanics and car dealers could no longer charge women more than men for the same work.
- Pharmacies could not refuse to fill birth control prescriptions.
- Women and others would have clear protections against sexual harassment in public places like restaurants and public transit.
- Organizations getting federal funding to help trafficking victims could not refuse to provide them with access to reproductive health care.
- Women of color who are racially and sexually harassed on buses or trains would have legal protections.
What about trans inclusion in women’s sports?
An increasing number of courts have said that Title IX—the federal law requiring equal sports opportunities for women and girls—prohibits discrimination against trans individuals. The Equality Act does not change Title IX, which allows for single-sex teams and aims to level the playing field for women and girls. Trans youth just want to play sports they love — like everyone else. Twenty-five states already have inclusion policies allowing trans youth to compete on teams consistent with their gender identity.
The bottom line
No matter who we are or who we love, we all deserve equal rights and protection from discrimination. That’s why we support the Equality Act, which will add explicit protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people to our federal laws, while strengthening civil rights protections for all women and people of color.