There are no current federal protections against discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Equality Act seeks to amend current longstanding legislation in order to fill that gap by amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections against discrimination when it comes to employment, housing, education, the jury system, federally funded programs, credit and public accommodations and facilities.
The legislation was passed in the House of Representatives in 2021, however, was not acted on in the Senate. Last June, it was re-introduced by Democrats for consideration.
Michigan representatives are some of the sponsors of this amendment.
One of the act's sponsors, U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI), said that discrimination is on the rise across the country, making the protections that the Equality Act would provide especially important now.
"Matters important to the LGBTQ+ community are being politicized, particularly with some of the attacks on school boards and local schools with book banning, as well as just the general resources that surround the LGBTQ+ community and their needs," Stevens said.
She said she is going to push to get the Equality Act implemented into law in Congress.
"As a member of Congress, I'm continuing to push to get this legislation over the finish line through both chambers that house in the Senate and signed by the President," Rep. Stevens said.
One of the most important facets of the legislation is to prevent queer individuals from being fired from their workplace because of their identities, according to ASMSU representative for the Alliance of Queer & Ally Students Angela Demis.
"The Equality Act is necessary to help especially protect LGBTQ+ individuals from facing discrimination, which can lead to individuals being fired from places that they work at and not being able to support themselves, all based on their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity," Demis said. "This is just a very crucial bill that would help so many people, especially within the LGBTQ+ community."
MSU History and LGBTQ+ Studies adjunct assistant professor Dr. Tim Retzloff said the queer community has historically been a target for discriminatory practices, emphasizing the need for federal protections.
"As a historian, I think that LGBTQ+ people have always been vulnerable in terms of their jobs, in terms of where they live, in terms of even public accommodations," he said.
Stevens said the next step for protecting LGBTQ+ Americans would be to implement federal grant funding for mental health services in schools with this act.
"What we want to do coming out of the Equality Act is to provide resources, particularly financial grants in dollars for mental health for coming out for school services, recognizing and celebrating differences," Stevens said.
Dr. Retzloff said that the scope of the Equality Act’s impact reaches everyone, not just members of the LGBTQ+ community.
"It's not just queer people that are impacted by these laws. It's everyone in queer people's lives, whether it's their children, their neighbors or friends or family, parents. It’s not so isolated," he said.
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