The National Black Justice Coalition Applauds the Introduction of the Equality Act
Civil Rights Leaders Say the Equality Act Would Dramatically Expand Civil Rights for All Americans, Provide Critical Protections for Women, the Poor, People of Color and Members of the LGBTQ+/SGL Community
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WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the House of Representatives reintroduced the Equality Act, a bill dedicated to providing explicit federal protections from discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity for matters of employment, housing, education, jury duty, credit, and federally funded programs, among others.
If passed, the Equality Act would extend civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+, and same gender loving (LGBTQ+/SGL) people under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other existing civil rights laws.
In reaction to the announcement, David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black LGBTQ+/SGL people, including people living with HIV/AIDS, issued the following statement:
“The Equality Act would provide clear and consistent federal protections for LGBTQ+/SGL people, but it’s critical to underscore that the bill also offers important protections for Black people, women, and members of other marginalized, stigmatized communities, including poor white people. The Equality Act is a bill for us all: It is designed to ensure that everyone in this country is treated with respect, dignity, and equality, regardless of who we are or how we show up in the world.
“Building on foundations of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and other existing civil rights laws, the Equality Act fills in legal gaps for Black people and members of other marginalized communities who face discrimination, including women and non-binary people. By expanding existing anti-discrimination laws to new domains like ridesharing apps and retail stores, the Equality Act provides legal protection and recourse that has been historically absent for Black and LGBTQ+/SGL experiencing prejudice.
“The Equality Act of 2021 does much more than protect members of the LGBTQ+/SGL community, which is why its passage would be especially impactful for people who are both Black and LGBTQ+/SGL”
“As a tall, Black, same-gender-loving man, I have been followed in stores by employees who assumed that I might steal something. I have worried that employers might mistake photos with friends as pictures of me and my partner, or discriminate against me as a result of ignorance and normative privilege. I have witnessed and actively advocated against Black people being discriminated against in the criminal justice system, the medical-industrial complex, traditional public schools, and other programs funded by my tax dollars. I have seen my siblings fired from or excluded from jobs because of how they express their race and gender through the act of wearing locs in their hair, or skirts in places where people assume only women and girls should enjoy the fun that comes with fashion. The Equality Act would finally provide everyone with legal protections designed to prevent biases, discrimination, and hate crimes.”
Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, added:
“Even as a pretty politically aware Black woman, I didn’t realize until my late twenties that my federal civil rights protections stopped when I entered a restaurant, hotel, or other public place. When a group of Black woman colleagues and I experienced an act of discrimination from our ride-sharing driver a few years ago, it was the first time I realized there was no existing federal law to file a claim under that would ensure no other driver threatened its passengers with violence. When the company refused to follow up on our grievance, I realized how important the Equality Act is, and how it would ensure that everyone, including all Black people and not just Black men, can access the means to seek justice when harmed in places that are supposed to be open to everyone.”
“The passage of the Equality Act is an essential move that will ensure our country is offering freedom and equality to all who live here. It protects groups that have, for far too long, been vulnerable to bias, violence, and harm simply for living openly as their authentic selves. We urge Congress to act swiftly in sending this bill to the White House for President Biden to sign.”
ADDITIONAL CONTEXT ON THE EQUALITY ACT:
The Equality Act was first introduced in 1974. In 2019, the bill received majority support in the U.S.House of Representatives for the first time, but was blocked by a Republican-led Senate without a hearing or vote. The Equality Act adds lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+, and same gender loving (LGBTQ+/SGL) people into preexisting civil rights protections provided by laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act. Without the protections listed under this bill, many LGBTQ+/SGL Americans will continue living in fear of unchecked discrimination.
The Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v Clayton County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing government agencies to apply this ruling to other areas beyond employment, such as housing and health care. Because a future administration could overturn Biden’s executive order, passing the Equality Act into federal law is necessary to cement these protections.
Passing the Equality Act is especially important for people who are both Black and LGBTQ+/SGL. The expansion in protections for public accommodations includes places like bars where Black gay men have noted persistent, historical discrimination. The explicit anti-discrimination protections would also provide protection for all women, including Black cisgender and transgender women, and non-binary femmes, who often face some of the worst prejudice.