Rights groups push lawmakers to pass LGBTQ Equality Act
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Civil rights groups are pushing lawmakers to pass the Equality Act, legislation which would ensure federal protections for LGBTQ individuals.

The bill has been introduced in Congress in both 2015 and 2017 but stalled. At a press conference on Monday, advocacy groups touted what they said was increased support and pressed for lawmakers to send the bill to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE's desk.

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More than 230 representatives and 46 senators are expected to co-sponsor the Equality Act. Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillinePelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Nadler considering holding Lewandowski in contempt Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing MORE (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDefense bill talks set to start amid wall fight DHS officials called lawmaker visit to migrant detention facility a 'Hill stunt' Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare MORE (D-Ore.) will introduce the bill in their respective chambers on Wednesday.

Groups are hoping to raise awareness of the bill. Last week, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's most prominent LGBTQ rights group, announced that 161 corporations, including a number of the nation's largest companies, are backing the legislation. Those companies include Amazon, Apple, IBM, Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson.

David Stacy, Human Rights Campaign's government director, on Monday said more businesses are supporting the act because it would standardize the care employees expect when moving from state to state for business.

James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBTQ and HIV Project, said that while LGBTQ people have been winning court cases to protect their rights, there still needs to be a uniform federal law on the books.

“Even if we win all those lawsuits, that doesn’t mean we don’t need the Equality Act,” Esseks said Monday.

At the press event, Esseks and representatives from other groups, including the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Women’s Law Center and the Center for American Progress, shared stories of people who were fired, harassed or attacked for being gay, lesbian or transgender.

“The toil that they go through is something that no one should have to go through,” said Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Sunu Chandy, the National Women’s Law Center legal director, said codifying these rights into federal law will not just benefit the LGBTQ community but will apply to forms of sexual discrimination.

She said the bill would finally provide a legal remedy for when women are kicked out of places for breastfeeding or if they are charged more than men for services or products.

“This would provide a framework where everyone has protections,” Chandy said.

When Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, the bill died in committee. But with Democrats now in control of the House, advocates are raising hopes for passage.

The bill did attract a handful of Republican sponsors in the last Congress, but it is unclear if it has the support to pass the Senate, which is still in Republican hands.

“We absolutely need to do better, and we certainly can do better,” Tobin said.