A bipartisan group of U.S. senators led by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) last week reintroduced legislation that would prohibit bias against LGBT people during the juror selection process.
The legislation, known as the Jury ACCESS (Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection) Act of 2013, would prohibit the practice of striking jurors in federal courts on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Shaheen is the chief sponsor of the bill, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are original co-sponsors. The bill was reintroduced on Tuesday.
In a statement, Shaheen said the legislation is necessary because “we simply can’t tolerate discrimination against a potential juror because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Our country is founded on the principles of inclusion, acceptance, and equality,” Shaheen added. “The jury selection process in federal courts should reflect those principles.”
U.S. code currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and economic status in the jury selection process in federal courts. But nothing in the law prohibits discrimination in juror discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Collins expressed a similar sentiment about the importance of prohibiting anti-LGBT bias in juror selection.
“Jury service is an important public service,” Collins said. “Our bill would prohibit potential jurors from being dismissed for service in federal trials based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The legislation was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was introduced for the first-time ever in September during the 112th Congress and had the same supporters, but saw no movement before lawmakers adjourned for that year.
According to a statement, the legislation is supported by a number of civil rights advocacy groups and LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBT Bar Association and the Alliance for Justice.
D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association, said her organization is proud to support the bill.
“Serving on juries is an essential civic duty especially in protecting the rights of all citizens,” Kemnitz said. “We applaud Sens. Shaheen, Collins and Whitehouse and the important work they’re doing to ensure that the LGBT community will not be denied a jury of their peers.”