On March 17, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a historic hearing to consider the Equality Act, critical legislation to protect and strengthen the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people across the country.
The measurewhich has been introduced beforewould amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prevent bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Among those providing testimony was Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. In part, he said, "Too many members of the LGBTQ community live with the real costs of inequalityfrom denial of basic services to fighting for sheer survival. Despite the progress we have made, discrimination against LGBTQ people is alive and well in our country, particularly for LGBTQ people who hold multiple marginalized identities. More than one out of three LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination in 2020, including more than thee out of five transgender Americans.
"Discrimination against our community is not only pervasive, but has devastating consequences. There is an epidemic of violence against the transgender community particularly, Black transgender women. Pushed to the margins by racism, transphobia, sexism and homophobia, Black trans women in this nation live daily with the threat of violence a threat that is heightened by attacks at every level of government. LGBTQ people, especially people of color, are more likely to live in poverty, to experience negative health outcomes, and to lack access to opportunities.
"This must change. And you have the power to deliver the change that our communities need by making the Equality Act the law of the land."
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director Kierra Johnson was among the pro-LGBTQ people who commented on the hearing's impact. "We witnessed history as the authentic lives of diverse LGBTQ people were lifted up, respected and dignified, and the nation's need for passage of the Equality Act made clear. The lives of millions of beautiful and diverse LGBTQ people in this country, and our families would be improved through the Equality Act.
"In response to two of the most active topics of conversation related to religious freedom and equal opportunity in sports, I offer the following:
"I believe in God and respect faith traditions, and I know that the Equality Act and religious freedom are compatible.
"I played women's sports and I support women's sports and equal opportunity for women and girls. Existing approaches to the participation of transgender girls and women already exist and work just fine, no change is needed. The Equality Act does not propose to change that."
Jacqueline Ayersthe vice president, government relations of public policy, of Planned Parenthood Federation of Americasaid in a statement, "We applaud Senate Judiciary Committee civil rights champions for proudly standing on the right side of history today by fighting for clear and consistent protections for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. LGBTQ+ people are people, full stop. They deserve to live full, healthy, and authentic lives, free from discrimination or judgment.
"It is truly abhorrent that some senators attempted to hijack this historic hearing on advancing civil rights in order to attack transgender youth, falsely claiming it was in the name of women's rights. To be clear: trans women and girls are women and girls. We call on the Senate to swiftly pass the Equality Act to help us build a more just society for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities."
Federal civil-rights laws currently do not explicitly protect LGBTQ+ people in the United States, leaving people vulnerable to discrimination in healthcare, employment, housing, education and jury service, among other services.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that the protections guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the basis of sex also extend to discrimination against LGBT people. Passage of the Equality Act would codify that ruling.
Last month, the U.S. House passed the Equality Act.