The Senate should stand up for all Americans and advance the Equality Act

In my mid-twenties, I could have never imagined that one day I’d be legally married to my husband Randy and that we could raise a family together. Every moment of fatherhood – the toddler meltdowns, innumerable sports practices, and occasional teenage defiance – has felt like a blessing beyond imagination. Be it lazy weekend days or long, sleepless nights, I wouldn’t trade being a dad for the world.

But - fatherhood isn’t always easy. Being a dad also means answering hard questions.

In May, the Equality Act, a historic bill guaranteeing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans, passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 236-173. While I was happy to see eight Republicans willing to stand with me, I was disappointed by 173 of my colleagues who voted against me, my family, and everyone like us.

My kids noticed, too. How could the same people who were so kind to them at receptions and ceremonies turn around and undermine our family? How could those same people who complimented us on our Christmas card also be okay with us losing our jobs or housing just for being gay?

Good question. You’ll have to ask them.

What I know is that the justifications for opposing the Equality Act – “religious liberty” or a newfound concern for women’s sports – are unpersuasive, to put it mildly. One: the bill contains extensive protections for religious liberty. And two: give me a break – this has nothing to do with women’s sports.

Not having an answer for my kids is frustrating – especially when they feel deceived or cheated. But one lesson I have taught them is that those who side with exclusion - who stand in the doorway to keep people out of an equal society - will always be on the wrong side of history. Those who push for inclusion are eventually celebrated because we’re right. 

Long before a majority of Americans supported federal protections for LGBTQ people, before marriage equality, before military service, before out celebrities and politicians, our community had to fight just for our lives to be recognized as valuable.

We owe our rights and our lives to the brave people who fought homophobia – battling oppression and ignorance while organizing and protesting for our right to be who we are and love who we love. Heroes like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Barbara Gittings and Harvey Milk moved us forward, allowing new generations of leaders to carry the torch for the LGBTQ community.

But as we know: progress is not victory. Despite the gains the LGBTQ community have made in the past century, we still face discrimination, violence, economic inequities and bigotry. This administration is working to roll back the rights and protections of trans Americans, threatens the safety of LGBTQ kids in our public schools, and seeks to erase LGBTQ identity from our next census.

The good news? We have the power to stop this discrimination.

The Equality Act will ensure nationwide protection from discrimination for LGBTQ people in the workplace, in housing, in the classroom, and in many other public places. By amending our current civil rights laws and including sexual orientation and gender identity we can bring 30 states lacking full protections for LGBTQ people up to speed, and create comprehensive protections for all Americans - no matter their zip code. 

There is no better way to honor our historic LGBTQ trailblazers – and celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots - than to pass the Equality Act. It would also go a long way in showing our kids that we mean what we say when we talk about justice and equality. Today, I am calling on the Senate to stand up for all Americans - regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity - and pass this bill.

Discrimination has no place in our country.

Maloney represents New York’s 18th District.