Durbin Presses for Passage of Equality Act in Historic Judiciary Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON – During today’s historic hearing on the Equality Act – legislation that codifies federal civil rights protections for LGBTQ Americans – in the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pushed back on arguments that the Equality Act could impact religious institutions or people of faith, as well as claims that passing this legislation would discriminate against people of faith or cause legal and social harms on many Americans.

“What do you believe passage of the Equality Act would do?  Would it change the decision by the church or threaten it as you know it?” Durbin asked Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), referencing the Pope’s recent pronouncement that Catholic clergy are not permitted to bless same-sex unions.

Mr. David responded that no, the Equality Act would not change any pronouncements that are issued by religious institutions. 

Durbin also asked Stella Keating, a 16-year-old transgender girl from Tacoma, Washington, to reflect on the point some in the Committee were making on transgender women playing sports in high school and college.  Stella noted that before the COVID-19 pandemic, she was planning to join her high school’s girls bowling team.  Stella also noted that as a transgender young woman who is considering her choices for college, she will have to think about what basic legal protections she will or won’t have if she goes to college in another state if the Equality Act is not enacted.  

“I wanted to do it because I wanted to just hang out with my friends,” Stella said.  “I can tell you that for a majority of transgender kids to join sports, they just want to hang out with their friends and that’s basically it… There’s a huge chance that I could fall in love with a college that is outside of my state.  And if the Equality Act isn’t enacted, then I won’t be protected there and then I can’t go to that college.  So the Equality Act will let me attend any college that I want to.”

Finally, Durbin asked Mr. David to reflect on the troubling and heartbreaking reality of the persistent discrimination, including harassment and even violence that LGBTQ Americans face.  Mr. David noted that two-thirds of LGBTQ Americans report experiencing discrimination.  Last year alone, 44 transgender women – most of them Black and Brown – were violently killed in the U.S., more than any other year in recorded history. 

“The Equality Act does not, in any way, undermine the rights of others.  It simply provides legal protections to LGBTQ people,” Mr. David stated.  “In 29 states in this country, we [LGBTQ Americans] face discrimination… that is why we are asking to pass the Equality Act, so that we are treated the same way as everyone else.”

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

Today’s hearing is the first time the U.S. Senate has held a hearing on the Equality Act, which the House of Representatives passed with bipartisan support last month.