Jury ACCESS Act would prevent jury selection discrimination against LGBT people

On Monday, three senators introduced a bill to prohibit discrimination in jury selection on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Jury ACCESS Act (Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection) of 2012, introduced by Senators Shaheen (NH), Collins (ME), and Whitehouse (RI), would amend federal law to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as bases for which it would be illegal to strike potential jurors. Current federal law prohibits discriminating against potential jurors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and economic status.

“Discriminating against a potential juror because of sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable, and it should not be tolerated,” Shaheen said. “Our country is founded on principles of inclusion and acceptance and the jury selection process should be no different.”

The House bill, introduced in June, has 6 cosponsors. The bills are supported by a broad range of organizations including Family Equality Council, the Human Rights Campaign, Third Way, National LGBT Bar Association, ACLU, Lambda Legal, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Alliance for Justice, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. 

In May, on the occasion of a similar bill being introduced in the Minnesota legislature, the Huffington Post reported that discrimination against LGBT potential jurors is wide-spread and historic, particularly when one of the parties to the trial is or appears to be LGBT. California passed their own ban in 2000.