The Advocate: The Equality Act Is Just the Beginning
Today, the House Democratic majority took a momentous step toward securing the full blessing of equality for the LGBTQ community and our country.
Led by the vision and values of our diverse, dynamic new members and inspired by your courage, we are bringing our nation closer to its founding promise of full equality by introducing the Equality Act — to finally, fully end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.
The Equality Act is simple. It says, unequivocally, that LGBTQ Americans deserve the full protections guaranteed by the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. To dismantle the discrimination undermining our democracy, we must ensure that all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are treated equally under the law — not just in the workplace, but in education, housing, credit, jury service and public accommodations as well.
The Equality Act clearly and consistently ensures that the same protections extended to Americans based on characteristics like race and religion are equally available to LGTBQ Americans.
States across the country have already led the way to provide full civil rights protection to their LGBTQ citizens. Yet 50 percent of the national LGBTQ community still live in states that fail to provide clear legal protections to their LGBTQ citizens. While these states try to stand against the tide of progress, the Equality Act will guarantee a nationwide standard to ensure that no American is ever forced to lose their job or home or live in fear simply because of who they are or whom they love.
Ensuring full civil rights protections for LGBTQ Americans may be inconceivable for some, but it is inevitable to us. Enacting this legislation will shorten the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable. When we bring the Equality Act to the floor of the House, it will pass. We have the bipartisan support of members of Congress and the strong support of the business community. And most importantly, we have the overwhelming support of the American people — 71 percent of whom support the Equality Act.
Once we pass this bill — and we will — we won’t stop there.
We will never rest until full equality has been achieved for the LGBTQ community.
We will be relentless in our work to defeat the president’s discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ agenda and hateful attacks on the transgender community. The president’s transgender service ban is a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate patriotic transgender Americans who have stepped forward to bravely serve our country, and it will not be allowed to stand. Liberty, justice, and equality are America’s guiding values — not bigotry and discrimination.
This summer, we will mark 50 years since LGBTQ Americans took to the streets outside New York City’s Stonewall Inn to fight back against brutality and discrimination, and demand an end to harassment, persecution, and hate. In the half-century that has followed, LGBTQ Americans have turned their frustration and pain into tireless action, winning extraordinary progress in the fight for freedom, justice, and equality.
But to pass the Equality Act and succeed in the many fights ahead, we need the continued organizing and mobilizing of grassroots groups and Americans like you. We must draw strength from the decades of progress we have made together: passing historic, fully inclusive hate-crimes legislation; tossing the hateful “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy into the dustbin of history; defeating the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act and ensuring marriage equality for all Americans; and ending the hateful ban on transgender military service.
The road from Stonewall may be long — but our march toward justice, toward freedom, and toward equality will not be denied. Hatred will never defeat pride. As we continue this progress, let us remember the words of Harvey Milk: “Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”
NANCY PELOSI is the speaker of the House and has represented San Francisco in Congress for 31 years. REP. DAVID CICILLINE, chief author of the Equality Act, represents Rhode Island in Congress.