Friday, May 5, 2017

Bipartisan Bill Introduced on LGBTQ Rights

It may seem that the LGBTQ rights movement has slowed under the Trump Administration, but maybe efforts have just shifted. Although the DOL has withdrawn its guidance which affirmed transgender rights and federal courts remain split on whether Title VII protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation, some members of Congress are trying to resolve these differences legislatively.

Earlier this week, a bipartisan bill was introduced which extends federal protection against discrimination. The Equality Act 2017 (H.R. 2282; S. 1006) would amend existing federal civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations, and the use of federal funds.

LGBT Americans have no protection against discrimination in 29 states, according to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.). Affected individuals fare better in Illinois than many other states. Illinois prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, including transgender status, through the Illinois Human Rights Act and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently held in the Ivy Tech case that Title VII protections extend to sexual orientation. This is just simply not the case in many other jurisdictions.

This is the second time that the Equality Act has been introduced to Congress, but the first time that it is a bipartisan bill. While enough support for its passage remains unclear at this point, it certainly signals that support for LGBTQ rights still exists at the highest levels of government and the issues are not likely to fade away.