How the Equality Act Will Ban Discrimination Against LGBTQIA+ People in the U.S.
By Lukas Azcurrain age, 12
The Equality Act is a new bill proposed by Congressmembers David Cicilline (D-RI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) on March 13, 2019. If the bill is passed by Congress and becomes law, it would ensure that everyone feels safe from discrimination in a number of environments, such as public spaces, work, school, hospitals, housing, banks and more.
Many people in the United States feel they can’t be themselves in public if they are part of the LGBTQIA+ community because there aren’t specific laws that protect them from discrimination. For example, currently a landlord can evict someone because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, as LGBTQIA+ people are not protected under the country’s fair housing laws. There are some states which prohibit discrimination of LGBTQIA+ people in housing, but these protections are not guaranteed everywhere.
The United States also has civil rights laws in place which say that evicting someone because they are of a different race is against the law. But while civil rights laws are there to protect people from discrimination based on race, color, sex, nationality and religious beliefs, they don’t explicitly protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act would expand the nation’s ability to protect LGBTQIA+ people, in addition to the country’s existing civil rights laws.
The Equality Act will also strengthen another important civil rights law: Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. According to FindLaw, Title IX “prohibits sex discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity.”
Although this law forbids sex discrimination in public schools, it doesn’t include transgender and other people in the LGBTQIA+ community. Advocates pushing for the Equality Act say that it will be vital if we want to move forward as a liberated and just society. Critics, such as Republican Doug Collins of Georgia, say that the legislation “prioritize[s] biological men over biological women,” because it allows trans women to enter female-only bathrooms.
There is homophobia, and then there is transphobia, and critics who use this argument are demonstrating transphobia because they are scared of transgender people. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, states, “We will be relentless in our work to defeat the president’s discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ agenda and hateful acts on the transgender community.”
The Equality Act includes new protections for all women. For example, it expands upon protections against discrimination on the basis of sex outlined in the Civil Rights Act to include places of public accommodation, like hotels and restaurants. Therefore, people will be protected from discrimination based on sex in addition to sexual orientation and gender identity in public spaces, such as public bathrooms.
The Equality Act has 287 original sponsors, but it is expected to face challenges in a Republican-controlled Senate.
Bill: A bill is the start of a law. If someone in Congress—the House of Representatives or the Senate—has an idea and wants to make it into a law, then they write a bill and introduce it to fellow politicians to vote on.
Discrimination: Unfair prejudice toward people based on their race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability or age.
LGBTQIA+: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and more.
Prohibit: The action of forbidding something.
Sexual orientation: Sexual identity based on who a person is attracted to. Example: Homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual.
Gender identity: What a person believes their gender is. This can mean defying the sex your birth certificate says. Example: transgender man, transgender woman, gender-nonconforming or questioning.
Critics: People who reveal their negative point of view on something or someone.
Homophobia: Hate, discrimination or prejudice toward people who identify as LGBTQIA+.
Transphobia: Hate, discrimination or prejudice against people who identify as transgender.
Republican-controlled Senate: A Senate where the majority of people’s political views are Republican.
Extending Civil Rights Laws to LGBTQIA+ Communities
By Ana Farkhondeh, age 13
On July 2, 1964, one of the most influential bills was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Known as the Civil Rights Act, this law ended racial segregation and discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin and religious beliefs.
This law was one of the first legislative achievements of the civil rights movement, designed to dismantle the legacy of slavery, which ended just 100 years prior, and to end the racist Jim Crow laws that were still in place in the Southern states. In a speech in 1963, President John F. Kennedy, the one who proposed the Civil Rights Act, stated, “This Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.”
While this law was meant to end oppression in the United States, it did not immediately come into effect as the strong law it sought to be. Many of the sections of the bill were not always as effective as they were intended. For example, segregation in housing, neighborhoods and public education remain a significant issue.
Even though this law was signed to ensure that the civil rights of all Americans are protected, at the time same-sex relationships were still illegal in many states, and it wasn’t until 2015 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, 50 years later. Therefore, LGBTQIA+ advocates are calling for legislation to ensure civil rights for LGBTQIA+ communities.
The Equality Act is a proposed law which aims to give LGBTQIA+ people the same anti-discrimination protections which have been given to other people. This new law is important because it recognizes the struggle that LGBTQIA+ people in America face, in addition to the intersections of race, sex, nationality and religion. For example, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in each of the Southern states employers may fire or refuse to hire a person because of their sexual orientation. There are also 29 states that do not offer any protection from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and 38 states that offer no protections for transgender individuals.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognized the pain and hardships that people of color, different religions and women faced at that time. The Equality Act is doing the same thing, acknowledging that people who are LGBTQIA+ have a harder time building a fruitful and joyful life than other people who identify as straight and cisgender. Like many other minorities, LGBTQIA+ people face much violence and hate in reaction to that part of their identity, getting thrown out of their homes as youth, getting beaten up for being “different,” emotional damage from bullying and employment discrimination, to name a few.
Trump’s Attacks on the Rights of LGBTQIA+ People
Since President Trump took office, his administration has created many measures that discriminate against LGBTQIA+ and transgender individuals. For instance, in October 2018 the Department of Health and Human Services proposed an interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 so that it would now ban sex-based discrimination only against female and male people, leaving out protections for the trans population and effectively erasing their gender identity from law. Another policy that Trump passed during his time in office which further oppresses transgender people is the effective ban on trans people enlisting in the military.
The Equality Act would undo these oppressive policies and bring equality to LGBTQIA+ people in the United States. This bill has been created as a device to help end discrimination that LGBTQIA+ people face each day for simply being their true and pure selves. Advocates say that without this new addition to the existing anti-discrimination laws our country has developed over the years, our country will not really be the equal, fair and open place it is said to be.
Civil rights movement: The civil rights movement in the U.S was a decades-long struggle to resist racial oppression and abolish the legacy of slavery to ensure that African Americans enjoyed the same legal rights as other Americans.
Jim Crow laws: Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States from the late 19th century until they were overruled by the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Cisgender: When a person’s gender identity is the same as the sex that was assigned to them at birth.
SupaFriends: Giving Visibility to Trans, Gender-nonconforming and LGBQ Communities
By Alethia Rael, youth producer and actress with SupaFriends
Last year in February, I was privileged to have been a part of a coalition of many different community organizations. Global Action Project (GAP), which has a program called SupaFriends, was facilitating the program called Community Media in Action (CMIA). After that, I was drawn into GAP and enrolled in the SupaFriends program, where I met so many beautiful and like-minded people.
SupaFriends is an important program because it gives space and room for disenfranchised people to create and star in their own community films. I was privileged to be a part of the film Ella for Prom Queen on YouTube. I played the role of Ella.
SupaFriends is super impactful for me because it gave me a voice when I am often left to feel like I’m voiceless. It gave me a platform to challenge gender roles and to essentially express myself unapologetically.
I think that it’s important for youth in particular to get involved with organizations like SupaFriends/GAP because we are the future of the world and society. Oftentimes I notice children are left feeling voiceless, as well. Children have a lot of wisdom to share, and it often goes unnoticed due to their age. It’s important to express yourself, and what better way than creating and editing your own media content? Be impactful and brave, young friends ♥️