Next Step for Equality Act

The Equality Act, a long-awaited piece of legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in areas such as employment, education, public accommodations, and housing, is today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for its first Senate hearing. 

First introduced on February 18, 2021, the Equality Act passed the House of Representatives on February 25, 2021,  along almost strictly partisan lines. The legislation has support from a vast array of grass-roots and national LGBTQ+ and civil rights organizations across the U.S. who have made the passage of the Act a priority in the ongoing effort to secure economic, educational, and other rights for the LGBTQ+ community.

With the LGBTQ+ population estimated to now be around 13 million, it’s clearer than ever that this legislation is urgently needed to support a large and growing segment of the population from discriminationatory practices in fundamentally important areas of day-to-day life. 

According to a recent study by the Williams Institute at UCLA, large segments of the adult LGBTQ+ population have faced discrimination in housing and employment, leading to disproportionate numbers of LGBTQ+ living in poverty (22% compared to 16% of non-LGBTQ+ people) and facing higher rates of food insecurity (27% to 17% of non-LGBTQ+ people). The study also found that LGBTQ+ people face significant struggles in the workforce with higher levels of unemployment than non-LGBTQ+ people (9% to 5%). With more than half of LGBTQ+ adults estimated to live in states that provide no staturory support for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults also report significantly high rates of being fired or denied employment than their heterosexual peers, making the Equality Act an important tool in the fight to eradicate this disparity.  

The Act also puts a focus on providing statutory protections for LGBTQ+ people in schools. Estimates suggest a population of over 3.5 million LGBTQ+ students aged 15 and older nationally, with upwards of sixty percent of those students living in states without legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The protections granted under the Equality Act could fundamentally change the outlook of equality for LGBTQ+ Americans in the education system.

While the passage of the Equality Act won’t erase discrimination, it will provide statutory protections for LGBTQ+ people and a framework in which to ensure basic rights in areas of education, housing and employment that are sorely needed. We hope that the Senate will pass the Equality Act to help all LGBTQ+ Americans.