The U.S. Senate has a historic opportunity in its hands to take a stand in favor of human rights by passing nation-wide fair housing protections for LGBTQ individuals. They cannot let the opportunity go to waste.
The Equality Act, passed by the House on Feb. 25, would amend a raft of provisions in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, jobs and many other facets of public life.
Without it, LGBTQ Americans in 27 states without local non-discrimination laws are vulnerable to changes in presidential administrations and their interpretation of the Civil Rights Act’s ban on discrimination on the basis of sex.
As the Biden administration argues, because the way people act out their sexual orientation and gender identity can run afoul of old-fashioned attitudes about how a man or woman “should” act – or who gets to call themselves a man or a woman – it qualifies as sex-based discrimination. The move reverses a position held by all previous administrations and is based on a 2020 Supreme Court ruling.
But as the near party-line passage of the Equality Act shows, the vast majority of the Republican Party is in favor of discriminating against many LGBTQ Americans. They hide their prejudice behind arguments about “religious liberty,” but the ugly truth is that in states without civil rights protections like these, LGBTQ people face significant levels of discrimination in the workplace and in housing.
Same-sex couples are 16 percent more likely to face discrimination from rental housing providers than heterosexual ones, according to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. And the nationwide 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that one in four transgender people experienced housing discrimination in the prior 12 months.
Sadly, Senate filibuster rules mean the Equality Act will take 10 Republican defections to pass –a highly unlikely threshold for a party that still celebrates homophobes and transphobes and counts many within its top ranks.
Thankfully, Massachusetts has written provisions similar to the Equality Act into its laws many years ago. But LGBTQ residents of over half the nation should not have to live at the mercy of bigots and religious zealots, counter to the very principles this nation was founded on. It’s time we end this disgraceful stain on our country’s promise of freedom and equality for all.
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