Passing the Equality Act Is an Urgent Matter. Here’s Why.

Anti-LGBTQ discrimination is "ubiquitous" across America, says Lambda Legal in a new report.

The passage of the LGBTQ Equality Act is long overdue, and a new report from Lambda Legal is proving why.

Earlier this week, the advocacy group released its 2021 help desk report, which sources data from the thousands of anti-LGBTQ discrimination claims made to Lambda Legal throughout the past year. The key finding? Bigotry doesn’t discriminate based on state or location: Anti-LGBTQ discrimination is “ubiquitous” across the United States, including all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. It also affects almost two-thirds of LGBTQ Americans at some point in their lives.

Lambda Legal received a whopping 4,468 calls for legal help in 2020. Overall, the majority were related to workplace discrimination. For trans and nonbinary claimants, most requests pertained to identity documents, the workplace, or prisons. Almost one-fourth (22%) of all sexual orientation-based claims had to do with workplace discrimination.

It’s worth noting that most (if not all) of these reported incidents could have been prevented by a piece of legislation like the Equality Act, which would expand existing federal civil-rights law to encompass sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. We’ve made some gains in this arena, most notably a June 2020 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ workers — and was backed by a historic Day One executive order from President Joe Biden.

Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Prior to this year, pro-LGBTQ lawmakers have tried in vain to push variations of the Equality Act forward. Now they have a chance again: This past February, the Equality Act passed in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. It faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where it is less likely to move forward despite being supported by the majority of Americans and President Biden.

In a statement, Stefan Johnson, Lambda Legal’s help desk director, affirmed the need for the “swift passage” of the bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the Equality Act for next Thursday, March 17.

“Abusive treatment of LGBTQ people can be stopped, and unjust systems can be repaired, but only if our leaders have the courage to stand up for the most vulnerable people in our communities,” Johnson said. “The sooner the Senate acts to pass the Equality Act, the sooner we will see a reduction in the systemic discrimination the Help Desk sees every day.”

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.
@_sammanzella