April 26, 2017 at 1:52 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Equality Act set for reintroduction on Tuesday
Equality Act, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) speaks at the press conference introducing the Equality Act on July 23, 2015 in the LBJ Room of the U.S. Senate. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Comprehensive legislation seeking to ban discrimination against LGBT people in all areas of civil rights law is set for reintroduction in Congress on Tuesday, according to two Capitol Hill sources familiar with the legislation.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are set to reintroduce the Equality Act in their respective chambers of Congress on Tuesday at 11 am in the Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol, the sources said.

First introduced in the previous Congress, the legislation isn’t expected to change from its previous iteration. The bill had sought to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to bar anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, credit, education and federal programs.

The bill also sought to update federal law to include gender in the list of protected classes in public accommodations. Moreover, the Equality Act had to sought to expand the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, transportation services and health care services.

David Stacy, director of government affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is a necessary tool to combat anti-LGBT discrimination.

“LGBTQ people face unfair and unjust discrimination just because of who they are, with few explicit legal protections in place,” Stacy said. “As lawmakers in states around the country target LGBTQ people for discrimination, it is even more critical that Congress pass a clear federal law to ensure LGBTQ people are fully protected by our nation’s civil rights laws.”

It remains to be seen which lawmakers will co-sponsor the legislation. In the previous Congress, only members of the Democratic caucuses were co-sponsors upon introduction. Although former Rep. Robert Dold and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) joined as co-sponsors in the House and former Sen. Mark Kirk joined as a co-sponsor in the Senate, only Ros-Lehtinen remains in Congress after last year’s election (the other two Republicans lost their races).

For the Senate version of the bill this time around, a Senate aide said no Republican co-sponsors are expected upon introduction of the Equality Act.

The legislation will almost certainly not move after introduction in the Republican-controlled Congress under the Trump administration. Although President Obama came to support the legislation in the previous Congress, it sought no movement other than at one least unsuccessful attempt from Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) to amend the bill to other legislation.

The bill is seen as a counterweight to the First Amendment Defense Act, federal legislation seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have said they reintroduce the legislation, but haven’t yet done so in this Congress.

President Trump is unlikely to support the legislation given anti-LGBT actions from the administration, such as reversal of Obama-era guidance protecting transgender kids from discrimination in school and ensuring they have access to school restroom consistent with gender identity. The administration justified that move by saying the issue belongs to the states, not the federal government.

However, 17 years ago, Trump said in an interview with The Advocate he likes the idea of amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation, which is a core component of the Equality Act. Trump hasn’t explicitly addressed whether that remains his position during his presidential campaign or since the time has occupied the White House.

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

  • Trump flip flops so much on issues that he should join a circus!! You can’t count on anything he says!!

  • This should have been accomplished with the ruleing on marriage equality by the Supreme Court. Congressmen like Mike Lee and Paul Labrador are bigots using religion as a means to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans. The Religious Freedom Restoration Acts they have proposed are hate bills and must be stoped.

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