A landmark legislation, the Equality Act is designed to expand federal civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ people from being discriminated against. This is when it comes to housing, employment, jury service, credit, and federally funded programs including health and education and in public places as well.
The survey says
A 2020 survey carried out by the Center for American Progress across the country showed that more than 30% of LGBTQ Americans, including 60% of transgender Americans, were subjected to discrimination in some form or the other in the past years alone. This forms a solid ground for the introduction and implementation of protection against discrimination.
As per the evidence gathered, discrimination has severely negative effects on physical and mental health and basic economic security. The Equality Act promotes fair treatment for people of the LGBTQ community, women, people of color, and those of faith.
On the whole, the Equality Act is supported by a majority of American citizens and a number of stakeholders. The stakeholders include over 300 companies that are part of the Business Coalition for the Equality Act.
The Equality Act promotes equality across the following segments:
The Equality Act amends the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to specifically encapsulate protections for individuals against discrimination. This is based on their Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (SOGI) by strongly prohibiting housing discrimination against the LGBTQ community. The law prohibits any form of discriminatory treatment in renting, pricing, selling, service provision, eviction, access to shelters, mortgage lending and homeowners’ insurance, among activities. It also prohibits coercion, harassment, and retaliation during the course of exercising their fair housing rights.
In the ruling of Bostock vs Clayton County, the Supreme Court stated that it is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for an employer to make hiring and firing decisions or discriminate against individuals in any manner based on their SOGI. The Equality Act ensures this ruling is particularly in encoding in the civil rights laws of the United States. It aims to do this by clarifying that protection against sex discrimination that currently exists in the country does not allow discrimination based on SOGI.
The Equality Act, by explicitly including SOGI as protected characteristics in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, will also codify the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s interpretive rule. As a result of this, the law will ensure that LGBTQ people cannot be denied mortgage loans, car loans, student loans, credit cards, or small-business loans simply based on their personality or individuality.
The law will also ensure that the treatment of such people will in no way be different in regard to credit transactions. LGBTQ communities are at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing credit and financial services. Therefore, access to credit will ensure promoting greater economic security and financial stability in the community.
Federally funded programs
A number of programs, including schools, community health centers, shelters, adoption agencies and law enforcement institutions are run with the help of funding from the federal government. The Equality Act will amend the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex and SOGI. This means that women and LGBTQ individuals will get protection. This is against being mistreated, discriminated against, or refused by any of these federally funded programs.
Same-sex prospective parents face many challenges and difficulties when they plan on adopting a child. That, along with the many dangers that LGBTQ people, especially transgenders, have to face in confinement makes a strong case for why it is critical to have these protections. This amendment would also be of immense help to LGBTQ students in federally funded schools. They can now be formally and federally protected against harassment and bullying.
This will now make sure that these students have the right to participate in sex-segregated activities. They can also use sex-segregated facilities according to their gender identity. The Equality Act will also ensure protection for nonbinary and transgender students. Hence, it will protect them from the gross harassment and misgendering that most of them face.
The Jury Selection and Service Act will face amendment by the Equality Act to include SOGI in its sex discrimination definition. This will help codify existing interpretations to prevent attorneys from rejecting prospective jurors who belong to the LGBTQ community. Sex discrimination is already in prohibition throughout the United States in jury selection.
However, 42 states, at present, don’t have explicit protections for an SOGI jury. Hence, attorneys may try to exclude LGBTQ individuals from having a jury of their peers, as is their constitutional right.
Public spaces and services
The Equality Act would ensure the establishment of protections in relation to sex and SOGI in public accommodations. A 2020 survey reveals more than 50% of LGBTQ respondents who reported discrimination or harassment said it took place in a public space such as a restaurant or a store. According to the Equality Act, this would mean that public businesses such as restaurants, stores, pharmacies, etc., would be accountable for their actions and words if they mistreat, discriminate against, or refuse service to LGBTQ people.
At present, the 1964 Civil Rights Act offers protections for only four areas of public accommodation – restaurants; hotels, motels, inns, or similar lodging; entertainment spaces such as movie theaters and sports arenas; and any entity physically located within one of those places. The Equality Act effectively expands the range of public accommodations recognized under civil rights law. It ensures protection for race, color, religion, national origin and sex, including SOGI. This would benefit LGBTQ individuals. It would also ensure that women don’t pay higher prices than men for similar services. Or not have access to services by establishments that provide health care.