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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 13, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 46
White House endorses Equality Act
Bill would add LGBT protections to Civil Rights Act
Section One
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White House endorses Equality Act
Bill would add LGBT protections to Civil Rights Act

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The White House announced on November 10 that President Obama 'strongly supports the Equality Act.'

The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration has been reviewing the bill 'for several weeks.'

'Upon that review it is now clear that the administration strongly supports the Equality Act,' he said. 'That bill is historic legislation that would advance the cause of equality for millions of Americans.'

'We look forward to working with Congress to ensure that the legislative process produces a result that balances both the bedrock principles of civil rights, like those I've just described, with the religious liberty that we hold dear in this country,' Earnest added.

The legislation was introduced simultaneously in the Senate and the House in July by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Representative David N. Cicilline (D-RI).

Thirty-seven Democratic Senators and two Independents - Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine - are cosponsors, along with 170 Democratic House members.

Since Republicans now control both chambers of Congress, there is little chance that the measure will become law before Obama leaves office.

In 2012 the federal EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, barring discrimination in the workplace, to include Transgender workers under the category of sex discrimination, and in July this year it extended that decision to cover all LGBT workers. In September, a Gay man who had been fired from his job became the first person to test the new EEOC ruling in court.

Nevertheless, a federal law would afford LGBT Americans more permanent protection than an agency ruling, which has not yet been litigated by the courts. In any case, Title VII on workplace discrimination is only one of many protections in the Civil Rights Act.

Responding to the White House announcement, HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement that 'the White House sent a strong message that it's time to put the politics of discrimination behind us once and for all.'

'The unfortunate reality is that, while LGBT Americans can legally get married, millions remain at risk of being fired or denied services for who they are or who they love because the majority of states still lack explicit, comprehensive non-discrimination protections,' Griffin added.

On the other hand, some human rights activists have been skeptical of opening the Civil Rights Act for revision, even though they support the concept of federal legal protection for LGBT Americans.

Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in an interview that the civil rights community has 'supported the concept of the Equality Act from its very inception.'

'It recognizes, however, there are questions that could benefit from further analysis,' he added. 'Before it moves forward, there's hope that those can be addressed.'

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White House endorses Equality Act
Bill would add LGBT protections to Civil Rights Act

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