The sweeping legislation, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), would bar discrimination against LGBT people in the areas of employment, education, jury service, federal programs, housing, credit and public accommodations.
O’Malley signaled support for the bill in a Twitter message at 12:30 just as a news conference was taking place on Capitol Hill announcing the introduction of the Equality Act. The tweet made him the first candidate out of the gate to publicly support the bill.
I proudly support the new LGBT civil rights bill—we must continue to fight for a more open, respectful & inclusive nation. #EqualityAct -O’M
— Martin O'Malley (@MartinOMalley) July 23, 2015
Hours later at 2:52 pm, Democratic front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also declared support for the legislation via Twitter.
The Equality Act will mean full federal equality for LGBT Americans & stronger anti-discrimination protections for everyone. Past time. -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 23, 2015
Previously, Clinton called for an end to discrimination against LGBT people in marriage, employment and other areas, but hasn’t until now articulated a vehicle to achieve that goal.
O’Malley has in another sense beaten Clinton to the punch weeks ago. After the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage, an O’Malley campaign spokesperson in late June confirmed for the Washington Blade the candidate was aware of the Equality Act as it was in its planning stages and supported the bill.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders has said nothing about the bill upon its introduction on his Twitter accounts. Michael Briggs, a Sanders spokesperson, confirmed his boss would be among the 40 co-sponsors of the Equality Act in the Senate.
“He believes that these protections are long overdue,” Briggs said. “Vermont has banned discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1992 and gender identity since 2007.”
In a May interview with the Washington Blade, Sanders said he would support amending the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity — which is the basis of the Equality Act — and said he suspected he would support the legislation then being drafted by Merkley. But Sanders wasn’t a confirmed supporter of the Equality Act until Thursday when his office announced he would be an original co-sponsor.
Each of the Republican presidential candidates have stayed mute on the legislation on the day of its introduction.