Getting To Meaningful Equality – an Op Ed from LPAC Board Member Alix Ritchie

Archive for August, 2015

Getting To Meaningful Equality – an Op Ed from LPAC Board Member Alix Ritchie

Posted on: August 24th, 2015 by teamlpac

This OpEd was originally published as a Guest Editorial in the Provincetown Banner on August 20, 2015.

In late July, a truly historic piece of legislation was introduced in Congress: the Equality Act. It updates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and importantly expands protections for women against discrimination. As such, the Equality Act is an important commitment to meaningful and real equality.

The act fulfills the need to secure explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. It addresses the significant discrimination that the LGBT community faces by ensuring that they are covered by the same civil rights protections that bar discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion in all parts of this country.

At the same time, the promise of equality for women is still incomplete, and this bill fills major gaps in the existing law to ensure that women are fully protected, which they are not now. Federal law today tolerates discrimination against women in public accommodations and by organizations that receive federal funds. The bill provides long-overdue protections to ensure that women are treated equally.

Adding women and LGBT people to all parts of the country’s primary civil rights law embodies the American ideal that discrimination violates our national commitment to equality.

In addition, the Equality Act updates the existing law to ensure that providers of goods and services like stores and banks and transportation companies, do not discriminate. This critical expansion covers communities of color, in addition to LGBT people and women.

Of great and growing importance, the bill would make clear that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA, cannot be misused as a tool to discriminate. This provision is vital, as we increasingly see the perversion of our Constitution by wrongly using claims of religious beliefs to justify discrimination.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. David Cicilline with co-sponsors Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Cory Booker and Reps. Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis. Numerous others have signed on to support it. But we should not assume passage will be easy. Nor should we assume that all the heavy lifting to get it passed will happen in the halls of Congress. In much the same way as hearts and minds were changed about marriage equality, we all have a part to play in making this happen. For the LGBT community, for women and for people of color passing the Equality Act should be a highest priority.

Let’s get it done!

Source credit to James Esseks, ACLU