Gender Inequality

10 things the Equality Act would mean for LGBT+ Americans and its supporters

Democratic leaders including U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, left, and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other supporters cheer as they gather to announce the introduction of the Equality Act at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis - RC1C5BBCE430

A step in the right direction. Image: REUTERS/Leah Millis

Kate Ryan
Writer, Reuters
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Gender Inequality

A U.S. Congressional committee on Tuesday held the first hearing on the Equality Act, legislation that would protect people nationwide from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

More than half of LGBT+ Americans live in states - 30 out of the total 50 - without protection from discrimination at work, school and elsewhere.

If approved by Congress, the measure would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination based on race, religion, sex and national origin.

Here are key facts about what the bill could mean for Americans and those who support it.

1. The Equality Act would ban employers from discriminating when hiring or firing workers based on orientation and identity. Research done last year by polling company Gallup Inc. found 60 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans reported being fired or denied a job, compared with 40 percent of heterosexual workers.

2. It would protect LGBT+ Americans who are buying or renting homes from discrimination. Transgender Americans have just half the homeownership rate of non-transgender people, and almost half of same-sex couples report negative treatment when searching for housing.

3. The measure would protect LGBT+ people from being denied credit, loans and other financial services based on their identity and orientation. Three-quarters of U.S. states do not have credit discrimination laws based on orientation or identity, including LGBT+ friendly places such as California.

4. LGBT+ Americans would be protected from unequal treatment or harassment in public places such as stores, restaurants and medical centers and also by adoption agencies. Including these establishments would increase protections to all Americans under the Civil Rights Act.

5. Students could not be placed or segregated in public schools or universities based on their sexual identity or orientation. States such as South Dakota have been criticized for trying to prevent students from playing sports according to their gender identity.

6. The act would prevent exclusion from jury service based on sexual identity or orientation. Wording of the measure cites a long history of preventing perceived LGBT+ citizens from serving on juries, which "unfairly creates a second class of citizenship for LGBT victims, witnesses, plaintiffs, and defendants."

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7. It would expand rights for women in public accommodations where they may be charged more than men for services or harassed for breastfeeding and offer recourse for people of color who are discriminated against in retail spaces.

8. The bill has more than 280 Republican and Democratic cosponsors, out of the 435 U.S. House of Representatives members and 100 U.S. Senators, the most ever on any LGBT+ rights legislation. If it passed the Democratic-controlled House, it would face major opposition in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

9. Netflix, Apple, Amazon and Nike are among more than 160 companies who publicly support the bill and employ nearly nine million workers.

10. A poll released in March by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Public Research Institute found 70 percent of Americans supported laws that protect LGBT+ people from discrimination.

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