The Equality Act: What is it, it’s Significance, and the Future Moving Forward

If you aren’t familiar with this significant- and highly contentious- piece of legislation, The Equality Act would mark an important amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to prevent and prohibit any discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in any sectors ranging from employment, education, housing, and any public accommodations.

The Equality Act would serve to implement protective measures for the LGBTQ+ community by amending the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several more laws that center on preventing prejudice in any federally funded programs.

As it stands, sexual orientation and gender identity are not a protected class, the Equality Act would change this by ensuring that- legally- Americans may not be discriminated against on account of this. 

The Equality Act is not the first of its kind, as many similar bills have been proposed and formulated since the 1970s, but the modern version of it first passed through Congress in 2019 when it passed the House of Representatives, but the bill was never called to a vote at the Senate. Regardless, former President Donald Trump publicly said that if the bill was to pass, he would have vetoed it before it could be made into legislation. 

The constant discussion of a bill of this nature over the last fifty years begs the question of what is it that is so important about the Equality Act?

As sexual orientation is not a protected class in the United States, that would not set any legal precedent against discrimination on account of one’s personal choices. This places the lives of countless LGBTQ+ youth and adults in public spaces.

In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on account of sexual orientation in a landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. 

While this represents a great step forward, federally funded programs and public spaces/services are not covered by this decision, further exemplifying the need for a solid, legislative change to protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination in both of these sectors. 

Additionally, while President Biden has already signed an executive order to apply the ruling to housing and healthcare practices, the next or future administration can refrain from interpreting it in this manner. Thus, it is increasingly important to have an amendment formally written into law.

On February 18, 2021, the Equality Act was introduced in the House of Representatives and passed with a 224-206 vote, and was introduced in the Senate on February 23, 2021. 

If passed, this would mark a landmark change in the scope of LGBTQ+ rights and change the standard for discrimination against sexual orientation.

Not only does it help serve against prejudice on account of sexual orientation, but the Equality Act would also help amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex as a protected class, it would also expand protections for people of color and other minority groups. 

Simply said, legislative change is necessary to continue to protect against further discrimination in public and federally funded places/services. With the passing of the Equality Act, protections for the LGBTQ+ community, women, and minorities may be solidified into law to create a more accepting society for our children, friends, and families to feel protected within their sexual orientation and gender identity.