July 25, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
Senate panel approves LGBT juror non-discrimination measure
Jeanne Shaheen, United States Senate, gay news, Washington Blade, New Hampshire, Democratic Party

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) sponsors legislation to ensure LGBT non-discrimation in the juror selection process (Pubic domain photo).

A Senate panel approved as part of a major financial services spending bill on Thursday a measure that would ensure non-discrimination for LGBT people as part of the juror selection process.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the measure, known as the Jury ACCESS Act, as part of the fiscal year 2014 financial services appropriations bill, which was reported out of committee by a vote of 16-14.

The larger measure funds the Treasury Department and other finance-related government institutions like the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. The LGBT measure was included as part of the base bill.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who introduced the LGBT bill in January, said in a statement the move would ensure that LGBT people don’t face discrimination as part of the juror selection process.

“Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity simply has no place in the United States,” Shaheen said. “The judicial process should represent our nation’s principles of inclusion and acceptance, and eliminating the discriminatory exclusion of LGBT jurors is a necessary step to meeting that goal.”

Currently, discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and economic status is prohibited under U.S. code in the jury selection process for federal courts. However, there are no such protections for LGBT people. The Jury Access for Capable Citizens & Equality in Service Selection Act would amend this section of U.S. code to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The language was included as part of the financial services spending bill because the financial services subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over the judiciary.

The legislation only has two co-sponsors, but enjoys bipartisan support. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) are original co-sponsors of the legislation.

Collins praised the committee for approving a spending measure that includes the LGBT non-discrimination policy.

“Jury service is an important public service, and I am pleased that the committee has adopted our language that would prohibit potential jurors from being dismissed for service in federal trials based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Collins said.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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