Equality Act would give federal protection from discrimination to LGBT people

Yesterday, Rep. Jared Polis and a band of fellow members of Congress introduced the Equality Act, a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill that would add to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 federal protection from discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity.

For five years, Polis failed to push through the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would have shielded LGBT students and students perceived to be LGBT from discrimination. Now he’s decided to back a bill that would offer protection against discrimination in the broader arenas — employment, education, credit, housing, federal funding, jury service and public accommodations.

Lawmakers decided to advance this new broader bill, which many say has little chance of passing through the Republican-controlled House, in the wake of the June Supreme Court marriage-equality decision. The bill’s backers hope the Court has set a precedent that the Constitution protects LGBT people from discrimination across the board.

In the wake of the marriage equality decision, some conservative evangelicals have argued that the government offering protections from discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity would block the church’s right to discriminate and violate their religious freedom.

This law would not impact clergy, and Polis supports the legal protection of each church’s right to decide whether they want to offer same-sex marriages or recognize LGBT people as members.

Colorado already has laws in place to protect people from discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity, so the federal law wouldn’t change much here at home.

Currently, 31 states allow employers to fire employees based on sexuality and gender identity. In 28 states, landlords can kick gay and transgender people out of their homes based on their identities.

Said Polis: “The Equality Act is a historic piece of civil rights legislation, and the principle at its core could not be simpler: discrimination is wrong, no matter what form it takes, whom it targets, or where it occurs.”