Freedom and equality are fundamental American values. But today, millions of Americans lack basic non-discrimination protections just because of who they are or whom they love. President Biden believes that every American must be able to live freely, openly, and safely. That’s why he continues to call on the Senate to swiftly pass the Equality Act, legislation which will provide long overdue federal civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans and their families, while strengthening some key civil rights laws for people of color, women, people with disabilities, and people of faith.
Despite the progress our Nation has made towards full equality, LGBTQ+ Americans still lack full non-discrimination protections in 29 states. In the absence of a Federal non-discrimination law, more than half of all U.S. states lack laws on the book prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and families. The lack of federal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people means that millions of Americans can be denied housing, education, credit and more just because of who they are or whom they love. In states across the country, LGBTQ+ Americans can get married on Sunday, and denied a rental lease on Monday.
The Equality Act will provide long overdue civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – ensuring LGBTQ+ Americans are finally afforded equal protection under law. The Equality Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide explicit non-discrimination protections on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The bill builds on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County by making explicit that non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in employment settings apply to other areas of life.
The Equality Act will help protect LGBTQ+ Americans who continue to report facing discrimination. Studies show that majority of LGBTQ+ Americans say they have personally experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender Americans, especially transgender women of color, continue to face rampant discrimination in housing, employment, and in public. These types of discrimination cause LGBTQ+ Americans to face higher rates of poverty, violence, and unemployment than other Americans.
Discrimination isn’t just wrong. It also is detrimental to the physical health and safety of LGBTQ+ Americans, especially transgender women of color. LGBTQ+ Americans still face discrimination when seeking medical care or visiting a doctor. In surveys, nearly 29% of transgender people in the United States say they’ve been refused medical care because of their identity, which can lead to avoidance of medical care. That is why the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is taking steps to address and prevent discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans in healthcare settings, but Federal legislation is needed to codify these protections. Discrimination also leads to violence. Transgender women of color face epidemic levels of violence. Too often, this violence stems from institutional discrimination in healthcare settings, housing, and employment.
Anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination also contributes to mental health inequities faced by LGBTQ+ youth. 75 percent of LGBTQ+ youth say they’ve experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination and bullying are detrimental to the mental health of any young person, and more than half of all transgender and non-binary youth say they have seriously considered commitment suicide in the past year. To address bullying and discrimination at school, the Department of Education has announced that it is taking steps to expand protections for LGBTQ+ students in our Nation’s schools, but Federal legislation is needed to codify these protections.
The Equality Act will also expand public accommodations protections for people of color, women, and people of faith. The Equality Act would also strengthen civil rights protections for other protected groups, including people of color, women, people with disabilities, and people of faith by expanding where non-discrimination protections apply to public accommodations.