Democrats push to pass Equality Act in wake of ‘hate-filled’ anti-LGBT laws across the US

The Equality Act was introduced last summer but the Republicans have failed to hold a hearing on it


Rachael Revesz
New York
Thursday 28 April 2016 17:01 BST
The six openly gay co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus
The six openly gay co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus (United States House of Representatives)

Democrats are pushing to pass through the a bill introduced last year that would make it illegal for LGBT people to be discriminated against in any form following several homophobic laws passed across the US.

Since last year almost 200 bills have been introduced in 34 states to permit discrimination against LGBT people, and three states - North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee - passed these bills in April alone.

LGBT people can be refused service in a restaurant, fired from their work, expelled from school, denied housing or sent away from a public space like a library or a theatre.

“Everyone knows you can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday after your boss read the account of your marriage in the newspapers,” said New York congressman Jerrold Nadler.

He added that politicians cannot “depend on the Supreme Court every time”, referring to the court's decision last year to deem state-level same-sex marriage bans as “unconstitutional”.

Now the Democrats are urging Republicans to hold a hearing on the Equality Act, which was introduced last summer and which has 174 sponsors, to make sure the House can vote on the bill.

The man at the helm of the movement, Rhode Island congressman David Cicilline, told reporters on Thursday that if the act is passed, “it would create a federal statute that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.”

“There is no question the Equality Act will become the law of the land. The only question is over what timeframe,” he said.

Mr Cicilline is also one of six openly gay members of the House of Representatives who serve as co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

He was joined on the podium by politicians from many states including California, Michigan and New Hampshire, as well as head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

California Congresswoman Janice Hahn said: “Every American deserves the right to be treated fairly under the law.”

“House Speaker [Paul] Ryan has long promised regular order. You know what? This would be a good place to start. We need a hearing on the Equality Act.”

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said states like North Carolina and Mississippi have recently introduced new laws which effectively legalise discrimination against LGBT people, and force transgender people to use a bathroom which does not correlate with their gender identity.

The laws in North Carolina caused outrage, prompting PayPal to scrap its plans of building a global operational center in the state, and also resulted in many stars like Bruce Springsteen to cancel their North Carolina concerts.

“Other states are considering similar laws,” said Ms Pelosi. “That is why this legislation is so timely and so needed.”

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