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'The Equality Act' introduces LGBT protections to Civil Rights Act

The Equality Act would include protections in public accommodations, public education, employment, housing, federal funding, jury service, legal protections, and credit.

Equality flag

Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Cory Booker of New Jersey are the lead sponsors in the Senate; David Cicilline of Rhode Island, also a Democrat, is the lead sponsor in the House.

“In most states, you can get married on Saturday, post your wedding photos to Facebook on Sunday, and then get fired on Monday just because of who you are,” said Cicilline at a news conference Thursday on Capitol Hill. “This is completely wrong. Fairness and equality are core American values. No American citizen should ever have to live their lives in fear of discrimination. I am introducing the Equality Act today with 157 House co-sponsors in order to ensure that LGBT Americans have the same rights and protections afforded to all other Americans.”

The proposed legislation also clarifies that sex-segregated facilities must admit individuals in accordance to their gender identity, and that it applies to anyone discriminated against because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or association with a protected class.

The Equality Act would also amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include employment protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Religious beliefs, race, sex, color, and national origin are already protected characteristics. The bill would not change existing religious exemptions for religious corporations, schools, and associations to make hiring decisions based on religious beliefs if the employee will be performing work connected with their religious activities.

Just hours after the bill was introduced, the Williams Institute at UCLA released a new studyshowing a whopping 78 percent support federal protections from discrimination for LGBT people. If passed, the Equality Act would protect the rights of 9.5 million Americans, according to the institute.

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