Despite same-sex marriage being legalized nationwide last month, the LGBT community in America still doesn't have the same legal protections as everyone else. A new piece of legislation — the Equality Act — introduced in Congress last week would change that by amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections in regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. If passed, the bill would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, education, federal funding, public accommodations, credit, and jury duty. The United States desperately needs the Equality Act, because no form of discrimination should be legal.
The Equality Act, introduced by Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, is largely supported by Democrats in Congress, and had 165 cosponsors. Because there's currently no federal law protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in numerous aspects of life, the laws vary widely from state to state, leaving many people vulnerable to unfair treatment. Along with protecting the LGBT community, the bill would also extend more protections to women and people of color, because the current Civil Rights Act has a few holes.
This bill would have a positive impact on millions of Americans. Here are five reasons the United States needs the Equality Act if we hope to ever eliminate discrimination:
Gay People Can Be Fired In 28 States
In 28 states, people can legally be fired from their job for being gay. President Obama signed an executive order in April prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for federal employees, but there's no federal protection for the workers at private companies. The Equality Act would make employment discrimination illegal once and for all.
Gay People Can Be Denied Housing In 28 States
Those same 28 states also allow discrimination against the LGBT community in housing, which means they can be evicted, denied housing, or denied loans to buy a house. Two states — Arkansas and Tennessee — even have laws prohibiting local nondiscrimination laws.
Women Can Be Charged More By Businesses
In addition to LGBT individuals, women still have no federal protections in terms of public accommodations, which means businesses can charge women and gay people more than straight men with no consequences (except for probably losing some customers). The Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation in public accommodations and federal financial assistance.
People Of Color Can Be Denied A Cab
Under the current Civil Rights Act, people of color are protected from discrimination in public accommodations, such as hotels, restaurants, and theaters, but not necessarily in other businesses. The Equality Act aims to expand the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, and transportation services, making all public spaces and businesses accepting of everyone.
Gay People Can Be Denied Credit In 37 States
Another major area of unfair treatment is in credit and loans, which can make it difficult to do everything from buying a car to renting an apartment. Currently, 37 states and Washington, D.C. don't have any form of nondiscrimination law for credit covering sexual orientation or gender identity.
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