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 TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE's desk.
More than 230 representatives and 46 senators are expected to co-sponsor the Equality Act. Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups Lawmakers question whether Amazon misled Congress Senators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products MORE (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyBiden injects new momentum into filibuster fight House passes bill to expand workplace protections for nursing mothers Senate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents 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.