Our Declaration of Independence holds that the inalienable rights of, "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," are endowed to ALL humans by their creator at birth. In 2015, marriage equality became the law of the land, yet there is still no federal law explicitly protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities from discrimination. These communities, therefore, do not enjoy the full breadth of freedoms that this country espouses to guarantee to each and every citizen.
This is not only unacceptable; this is in direct violation of our founding principles.
Generation after generation, people have fought to rid our country of the “except for’s.” “Except for blacks,” “except for women,” and so forth. Today, we are challenged by the ongoing prejudice that seeks to repudiate the fundamental American dedication to freedom and equality for all. The idea that there should be God-given life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, “except for them,” is a stain on our national character.
The ability to pursue a livelihood free from discrimination is a right denied, every day, to members of the LGBTQ communities. It is estimated that roughly 4.5% of the US Population identifies as LGBTQ. But this large percentage of our population still does not have full legal rights and due process rights in many aspects of their life.
Currently, LGBTQ citizens are not included in the non-discrimination protections provided by the federal Civil Rights Act, and in 30 states, there are no state laws that protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination.
.A report from the Center for American Progress found that more than half of LGBTQ individuals have experienced discrimination at work, and 68.5% of respondents said that anti-LGBTQ discrimination has impacted their mental health.
Hypothetically, you as an LGBTQ individual can legally enter into a same-sex marriage on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, you can be refused service at your local restaurant, denied partnership rights at your local hospital, fired by your employer for your orientation, and evicted from your home by your landlord - with little or no legal protections or recourse available.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2017, more than 120 bills described as “anti-LGBTQ” were introduced across 30 states, including adoption laws and so-called bathroom bills. A frightening percentage have become law.
Every American deserves to live free from fear of discrimination, regardless of who they are and whom they love.
There have been ongoing efforts for over 40 years to change these “except for” legal loopholes. There has been meaningful, bipartisan legislation in the US House ever since 1974, and one version of this reform legislation has been introduced in every Congress since 1994.
Unfortunately, through the 115th Congress, ALL these reforms remain unpassed.
In particular, last Congress’ “Equality Act” (H.R. 2282 and S. 1006), an historic bipartisan legislation, combined many of the issues from most of the past 40 years of effort to ban discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. The Equality Act would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.
The Equality Act would amend existing civil rights law — including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government — to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sexual orientation.
Additionally, the Equality Act would update the public spaces and services covered in current law to include retail stores, services such as banks and legal services, and transportation services. These important updates would strengthen existing protections for everyone.
Decades of civil rights history show that civil rights laws are effective in decreasing discrimination because they provide strong federal remedies targeted to specific vulnerable groups. By explicitly including sexual orientation and gender identity in these fundamental laws, LGBTQ people will finally be afforded the exact same protections as other covered characteristics under federal law.
In the 115th Congress, the bill was introduced with 241 original cosponsors—the most congressional support that any piece of pro-LGBTQ legislation has received upon introduction. Unfortunately, the bill “died” in committee.
As President, I would call on Congress to bring this bill back and into consideration, then passage. I would be waiting to sign it when it came across my desk.
The LGBTQ communities are equal members of this nation. They should be able to pursue a livelihood free from discrimination and have all of the rights afforded under the US Constitution -- not because of their sexual orientation -- but because they are American citizens!
Lastly, one extremely important issue must occur in order to properly approach this issue as we move forward, and that is with the 2020 US Census. One way our government allocates resources to its citizens is by knowing who its people are. The Trump administration has openly admitted its intent to weaponize the questions it intends to use in this next census. They must be stopped. The collection of information of the LGBTQ citizen is an imperative asset for the government to properly allocate its resources and to allow for national advocacy.