During Pride Month, Durbin & Duckworth Join Merkley, Baldwin, Booker To Introduce The Equality Act

The Equality Act is historic, comprehensive legislation that would explicitly ban discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans

WASHINGTON – Despite significant steps forward, LGBTQ+ Americans around the country are facing an uptick in discrimination and dangerous state-sponsored legislation.  To combat these hateful actions, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) joined U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to introduce the bicameral Equality Act. The Equality Act is historic, comprehensive legislation that would update federal civil rights laws to explicitly ban discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans, just as such laws ban religious, racial, and ethnic discrimination. 

In March 2021, Durbin chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Equality Act—the first time the U.S. Senate had held a hearing on the legislation.  Durbin’s opening statement from that hearing is available here and questions for the witnesses is available here

“No one should be treated as less than equal because of who they love or who they are.  While we’ve taken big steps in the fight for equality for the LGBTQ+ community, there’s still more work to be done.  And as state legislatures relentlessly attack the rights and humanity of LGBTQ+ Americans, we must act,” said Durbin. “I will keep pushing for passage of the Equality Act to ensure that LGBTQ+ Americans are fully protected under our nation’s civil rights laws.” 

“It is absolutely unacceptable that someone can be fired from their job, evicted from their home and experience discrimination just because of who they are or who they love,” said Duckworth.  “As we’ve seen a dangerous increase in legislation across the country targeting LGBTQ+ individuals, it’s long overdue for us to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community at the federal level.  I’m proud to join my colleagues in re-introducing the Equality Act to finally enshrine critical civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in federal law.”

“Generations of Americans have marched, voted, organized, and raised their voices to move us closer toward a more perfect union with freedom, equality, and opportunity for all,” said Merkley.“We all go to work and school, go home, and go shopping, and none of us should have to keep our families hidden or pretend to be someone we’re not to do those things. Yet in some states, Americans can still be evicted, be thrown out of a restaurant, or be denied a loan because of who they are or whom they love. To realize the vision of America as a land of freedom and equality, we must be willing to take the steps to bring that vision closer to reality, and that’s exactly what the Equality Act does.” 

“If we want to live up to our nation’s ideal of true equality, we must address the fact that we have been coming up short. It is wrong that in a majority of states, LGBTQ+ people can be denied an apartment, cut from a job, thrown out of a store, or face other forms of discrimination just because of who they are or who they love,” said Baldwin. “And that’s why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ+ Americans against discrimination and live up to our nation’s ideals of freedom and equality.” 

“The flood of legislation in state after state seeking to undermine the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans is antithetical to our nation’s fundamental ideals and only serves to foster more hate, division, and prejudice,” said Booker. “Congress must act to ensure that no person is discriminated against based on their gender identity or who they love. That is why I am proud to join again with colleagues to reintroduce the Equality Act, landmark legislation that will guarantee that LGBTQ+ Americans are protected under federal law and move us one step closer to having a nation that truly lives up to our ideals of liberty, freedom, and justice for all.”  

This legislation would specifically amend the landmark federal anti-discrimination laws to explicitly add sexual orientation and gender identity to longstanding bans on discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, federal funding, and more.  It would also add protections against sex discrimination in parts of anti-discrimination laws where these protections had not been included previously, such as public accommodations and federal funding. 

LGBTQ+ equality received a huge boost across the nation last year when President Biden signed theRespect for Marriage Act into law, enshrining federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.  Further, in 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited as a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  However, this court ruling has not yet been nationally applied to other areas of potential discrimination—including housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, and more. 

Many Americans believe that such protections are already explicitly written into federal civil rights law, but this is not the case.  The Equality Act would finally enshrine these protections into federal law under all areas of potential discrimination and ensure that these essential protections for LGBTQ+ Americans are not subject to the whims of a changing court.   

The full text of the Equality Act can be found here as introduced in the Senate, and here as introduced in the House.

A summary of the bill can be found here