Thanks to this summer’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, gay and lesbian couples can legally marry anywhere in America and have those marriages recognized no matter where they live. Yet many of those same couples can still be denied other basic rights in many parts of the country.
A lesbian couple in Minnesota, for example, can get married in St. Paul, then be at risk of losing a job in a neighboring state. Gay partners could be prevented from renting or even evicted from an apartment in a nearby state because of their relationship. That’s because the majority of states lack explicit provisions against employment, housing and public-access discrimination aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
And that’s why federal action is needed. Same-sex marriage laws ultimately couldn’t be left up to states — and neither should human civil rights protections for the LGBT community.
Legislation proposed earlier this summer would correct the problem. House and Senate lawmakers introduced the Equality Act of 2015, a bill that would expand existing anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people. The measure would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Those acts outlaw discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin. The Equality Act would rightly add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list. And it would offer that legal standing to those in the 31 states (including three states bordering Minnesota) that don’t already extend these protections to LGBT citizens.
The measure was introduced with more than 200 cosponsors, but without any GOP backers. Still, support from both sides of the aisle should increase if lawmakers heed growing public support.
Surveys indicate that a broad majority of Americans favor including LGBT people under human and civil rights rules. In addition, some leading businesses have enthusiastically stepped up to endorse the Equality Act, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Minnesota-based Target and General Mills.
In a recent interview with a Star Tribune editorial writer, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, cited research that proves gender-identity and sexual-orientation-based bias remain an everyday challenge. He noted that a 2015 poll of LGBT Americans showed that 63 percent report experiencing discrimination in their personal lives. And of that group, about half said the discrimination occurred at work.
To Minnesota’s credit, this state already includes LGBT people in human and civil rights legislation. However, bringing the rest of the country along will take congressional action. Americans should urge lawmakers to support the Equality Act and extend Minnesota’s fair treatment statutes across America.