The Equality Act is federal legislation that would modernize America’s civil rights laws by including explicit protections for LGBTQI+ people—as well as expanding protections for women, people of color, and people of all faiths. This critical legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in February 2021. Now, the Senate must follow suit. Continue reading to find out why.
What is the Equality Act?
The Equality Act (S. 393) is a federal bill that would amend existing civil rights and nondiscrimination laws to prohibit discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation, gender identity, and, where not already covered, sex. This bill will provide protections to LGBTQI+ people and our families in a wide variety of contexts, including the workplace, housing, education, public accommodations, credit, and more. It also would expand existing protections in public accommodations to include establishments that provide goods, services, programs, and transportation services; thus, providing people of color and immigrants with additional protections in everyday life.
Why do we need the Equality Act?
A comprehensive survey in 2020 showed that more than 1 in 3 LGBTQI+ Americans faced discrimination of some kind in the past year, including more than 3 in 5 transgender Americans. Imagine:
- A couple left by the side of a highway with their two small children because their taxi driver realized they were a same-sex family
- A toddler devastated by the news that he could not attend the same daycare as his neighborhood friends, because he has two moms
- A trans family considering moving to a different state in order to be legally protected from discrimination in health care
Every day, Family Equality hears stories like these. Healthcare providers, taxi cab drivers, employers, and more discriminate against our families and children because of who they are and whom they love. The health and economic costs of this discrimination are enormous. To avoid the experience of discrimination, more than half of LGBTQI+ Americans report hiding a personal relationship, and about one-fifth to one-third have altered other aspects of their personal or work lives. 15 percent of LGBTQI+ Americans report postponing or avoiding medical treatment due to discrimination, including nearly 3 in 10 transgender individuals.
As a result of these systemic barriers, LGBTQI+ families are much more likely to live in poverty or to need nutrition assistance. We have also suffered severe health and economic blows from the COVID-19 pandemic, and studies show that LGBTQI+ families recovered more slowly from the last economic recession.
Up to 3.7 million children under the age of 18 have an LGBTQI+ parent—and nearly 4 million LGBTQI+ millennials are considering expanding their families in the years ahead. So, we need to protect the growing number of LGBTQI+ families in the United States from discrimination. This starts with the Equality Act.
LGBTQI+ youth across the board are facing discrimination, harassment, and bullying that could be prevented by federal legislation like the Equality Act. This mistreatment is driving a mental health crisis, with a 2021 survey by the Trevor Project finding that 42% of LGBTQI+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. These numbers are even higher for LGBTQI+ youth of color. Tragically, 31% of Native/Indigenous youth, 21% of Black youth, 21% of multiracial youth, 18% of Latinx youth, and 12% of Asian/Pacific Islander and white youth attempted suicide over the last year.
Prohibiting discrimination allows our schools and other youth-serving institutions to better support and affirm our children. In other words, this bill would save lives.
People of Color, People of Faith, and Women
The Equality Act fills in gaps in civil rights laws experienced by many groups beyond the LGBTQI+ community as well as LGBTQI+ folks with intersectional identities. Many people of color, immigrants, and people of minority faiths face discrimination in retail stores or taxi rides, for example. The Equality Act would bar such discriminatory acts in these public places, providing protections where they do not currently exist.
Who supports the Equality Act?
Most Americans! Yes, you read that right. 83% of Americans support barring the discrimination listed above by law. Most Americans actually think that such discrimination is already illegal nationwide. Sadly, that’s not the case. Fewer than half of states have explicit state laws prohibiting such discrimination— meaning, for example, that it remains legal in most states to kick someone out of an apartment, deny someone healthcare, or refuse to serve someone in a restaurant simply because they are LGBTQI+. More than half of LGBTQI+ people live in these states.
What can you do to help?
The Equality Act is a crucial piece of legislation that will help all families, and especially LGBTQI+ families, from discrimination. It is a critical step forward in the fight for comprehensive, nationwide nondiscrimination protections, and you can use this simple tool to reach out to your Senators to urge them to support it.
Tell Congress to Support LGBTQI+ Families by passing the Equality Act now!
Urge your Senator to support this crucial piece of legislation.