Equality is for all God's children: Black, brown, white, straight and LGBTQ
© Greg Nash

In his first joint address to Congress, President BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Biden vaccine rule sets stage for onslaught of lawsuits MORE said young transgender people are “so brave” and urged lawmakers to pass the Equality Act, which would expand federal civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in virtually all areas of American life. The president’s request for federal legislation comes as state legislatures around the country have passed anti-LGBTQ laws targeting transgender youth, including bills that ban best-practice medical care and restrict participation in school sports. Biden is right: we need immediate federal action to guarantee equal protection under the law for transgender youth.

The Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support in February, and the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing the following month. Edith Guffey, the Conference Minister of Kansas-Oklahoma Conference in the United Church of Christ, testified at the committee hearing, saying, “I’ve always been kind of amazed how we view giving rights to others means taking rights from others, as if there’s a limited amount. Extending grace to one means expanding grace to all."

I’ve been glad to hear from senators on both sides of the aisle who recognize the need for working together to create a lasting solution to the discrimination and marginalization of LGBTQ Americans. With a pro-equality White House and a pro-equality Congress, we have a real chance to pass a comprehensive federal law to protect LGBTQ Americans in all 50 states. Our senators must do everything possible to seize this opportunity for justice and not lose sight of the values of their faith.

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I was taught early on: There is no separation between faith and justice. At the very heart of our faith, whether it’s Judaism, Christianity or Islam, it is how we respect the fundamental dignity of all people and treat others as we want to be treated, including those who may seem different from us. When we do that, we are truly living our faith.

LGBTQ people are our friends, our neighbors, our family members and co-workers. When it comes to earning a living, finding a place to live, or being served by a business or government office, LGBTQ people should be treated like everyone else. Excluding people from civil rights protections hurts us all. Let us treat everyone with actions of mercy, charity and grace.

From our history, we know that if we exclude people simply because of who they are, because of who God made them, it only spreads hatred and gets entrenched in our society. It’s important to me to not just stand with the LGBTQ community — but to speak out and advocate against discrimination and marginalization. The same forces working to scapegoat transgender youth in state houses across this nation are also using their power to suppress Black, brown and young voters, to deny Medicaid expansion to people who need health care and to make it easier to buy guns. LGBTQ people are a critical part of the fusion coalition that is needed to revive a democracy that works for all of us in this nation.

LGBTQ people have faced an alarming level of discrimination in the past year because gaps in our federal laws leave millions of LGBTQ people without protection. More than 1 in 3 LGBTQ people reported experiencing discrimination in their daily lives, including more than 3 in 5 transgender people. We have to come together as a nation to address this injustice. The Equality Act would make clear that discrimination against LGBTQ Americans is prohibited under federal law.

Equality for all God’s children is not about liberal or conservative values. It’s about pursuing justice as the Bible teaches us. I know that both Democratic and Republican senators of deep faith believe every child of God has value. It’s time for our elected officials to pass full, comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for all Americans in all areas of life. I hope and pray that every senator, including my North Carolina senators, Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate starts infrastructure debate amid 11th-hour drama The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE, will show leadership in getting a federal nondiscrimination law passed for the LGBTQ community.

Extending grace to everyone we encounter means doing everything we can to ensure that no one faces mistreatment, harassment, or discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.

Bishop William J. Barber II is president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair the Poor People’s Campaign. His most recent book is We Are Called To Be A Movement.