An essential step towards equality

The Equality Act was passed by the House of Representatives on Feb. 25 with the support of every Democrat and three Republicans. This bill is nearly identical to a bill that was passed in the House in 2019 but died in the Republican-held Senate. Although the Democrats currently hold both the Senate and the Presidency, in order to avoid a filibuster organized by the Republicans, the bill would require support from 60 senators.

The Equality Act builds off the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by explicitly stating that people should not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Equality Act would cover the same areas as the Civil Rights Act, like housing and employment, but would expand to cover federally funded programs and all “public accommodations,” which includes businesses that are open to the public.

What makes the Equality Act so important, and why I believe the Senate needs to pass the bill, is that it would ensure the same protection under the law in every state for LGBTQ+ people. Currently, there are 41 states where the LGBTQ+ community can be denied the right to serve on a jury, 27 states where they can be denied access to housing and in around half of all states same-sex couples are legally allowed to be denied service at a restaurant. Also, 31 states currently lack protections regarding LGBTQ+ access to education. The Equality Act would secure the basic rights for LGBTQ+ people that should already be afforded to every American citizen.

In 2020 the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. However, this ruling applied to the workplace and does not protect against discrimination in other sectors. 

President Joe Biden, on his first day in office, signed an executive order that aligned with this decision. It stated, “All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.” Although Biden issued this executive order, it needs to be put into law otherwise it would be possible for future Presidential administrations to disregard this executive order. 

Another important tenet of the Equality Act is that it would protect the rights of transgender athletes to participate in the sports that align with their gender identity. 

One of the focal points in arguments against the Equality Act is the idea that it would “destroy women’s sports,” according to Representative Tom McClintock of California. 

Some believe that transgender women would have an advantage over cisgender women in sports. This claim is inherently flawed.

Transgender athletes have variable athletic ability just like cisgender athletes, and the idea that transgender athletes benefit greatly from having different levels of hormones is also false, since, as the ACLU reports, “many people who are not trans can have hormones levels outside of the range considered typical of a cis person of their assigned sex.”

The exclusion of transgender women from sports would teach the next generation the hateful ideas that have prevented the progression of trans people thus far and could damage the transgender movement irreparably. 

We must take on the responsibility of teaching future generations acceptance and the Equality Act is the next step towards that future.