Americans United is proud to support the Equality Act, groundbreaking legislation pending in Congress that, if passed, will offer long overdue protections for LGBTQ Americans from the discrimination and intolerance. It will also ensure that religious freedom is not misused to create loopholes that would ultimately undermine these protections.
The Equality Act would affirm and clarify that existing protections from sex discrimination in federal law include protections based on people’s sexual orientation and gender identity – and make it clear that religion cannot be misused to justify discrimination. The act would provide clear, consistent protections nationwide across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.
The Equality Act also would close longstanding gaps in existing civil rights laws by barring sex discrimination by federally funded programs and businesses open to the public, and it would expand protections against discrimination on the basis of race, religion or national origin in public spaces.
Critically, the act contains language ensuring that its provisions can’t be overridden by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Passed in 1993, RFRA is a federal law that was intended to protect religious freedom, especially for religious minorities. It has since been misinterpreted and misused to justify harmful religious exemptions that allow discrimination against the LGBTQ community, women and religious minorities.
The Equality Act affirms that religion does not give businesses, employers, schools, landlords and others a license to discriminate. Passing the act would be a major step forward in stopping the Religious Right’s aggressive agenda to redefine and weaponize “religious freedom.”
No American’s rights should hinge on the religious beliefs of another. No American should be subjected to discrimination because of the way someone else interprets a religious book. No American should feel the sting of rejection for work, housing and health care based on who they are or who they love.
The patchwork nature of state and local laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination means members of the LGBTQ community are subject to uncertainty and discrimination that affects their safety, their families and their everyday lives. This isn’t a trivial matter: Nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ people in America report having experienced discrimination.
It’s time for this to end. Passage of the act will provide a uniform standard of protection nationwide that will ensure that LGBTQ Americans are no longer treated as second-class, including on the basis of someone else’s religious beliefs.
The Equality Act has unprecedented support from a significant majority of Americans, the business community and major statewide and national organizations. A poll taken by Public Religion Research Institute last year found that 71 percent of Americans support laws that would protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, which is exactly what the Equality Act is designed to do.
We need Congress to pass the Equality Act now to protect LGBTQ rights and the true meaning of religious freedom.