Equality Act introduced in Congress

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). CNN photo.

The Equality Act, which would bring LGBTQ+ people under civil rights protections, was introduced in both houses of Congress Wednesday. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the act in the Senate, along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the bill in the House. The bill has 280 cosponsors in the House and Senate, the most it has ever had. It had also been introduced in 2015 and 2017 but failed to get out of committee in either chamber.

Passage is virtually assured in the Democratic controlled House of Representatives, where it was made a priority by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Passage is less certain in the Senate. Supporters believe that they could get a majority of senators to vote for it, but the possibility of a filibuster dims the bill’s chances.

Sen. Baldwin, who is one of 10 openly LGBTQ+ members of Congress, said, “In the majority of states, people in the LGBTQ community can be fired from a job perhaps because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and would have no recourse.

“We want to live in a country that, you know, judges people based on their performance and their character, and so we need to pass the Equality Act at the federal level.”

Currently, only 22 states have protections for LGBTQ+ people. In the remaining states, LGBTQ+ people have little or no protection against discrimination on the job, in housing and public accommodation.

Sen. Baldwin believes that if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would let GOP senators vote their conscience, the bill would receive enough Republican votes to pass.

“If you just had an up or down vote, we would have sufficient votes in both houses,” Baldwin told NBC News on Monday in an exclusive interview. “I think what the House passage will tell us is that the 2020 elections are really important to create and vote for a pro-equality Senate and president.”

Baldwin told NBC News that one of the challenges in advocating for the Equality Act is “educating people that full equality has not been won or achieved yet.” After the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which led to the legalization of same-sex marriage across the U.S., she said many Americans believed “we achieved everything” in terms of LGBTQ equality.

“Full equality has not been won,” Baldwin told NBC. “We can't confuse progress for victory.”

Copyright The Gayly – March 13, 2019 @ 4:35 p.m. CDT.