Supporting the Federal Equality Act
It is long past time to modernize our nondiscrimination laws at the federal level to better reflect our values as a country and to ensure that every American is free from discrimination. This is the letter I recently sent to our federal delegation, Senators Baldwin and Johnson and Congressman Pocan.
February 19, 2021
Dear Senator Baldwin, Senator Johnson, and Representative Pocan,
I am writing to express my strong support for the Equality Act (H.R. 5), which would finally establish federal prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, codifying the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States in Bostock v. Clayton County in June 2020. I applaud Senator Baldwin’s leadership reintroducing this bill in the Senate, and I would like to ask our entire Congressional delegation to support this legislation that would more effectively protect the LGBTQ+ community in the workforce, housing, education, credit lending, jury service, and public accommodations. Your support will help ensure that all of our constituents receive equal treatment and protection from discrimination under federal law, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling did enable Americans to seek recourse for employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity through federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; however, this legal recourse is merely reactive – rather than being proactive and preventative policy. Wisconsin was the first state to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1982 – protecting our gay, lesbian, and bisexual residents from discrimination at work, in housing, and in public accommodations. However, those statewide protections do not apply on the basis of gender identity, leaving our transgender or gender non-conforming residents subject to discrimination. They could be subject to eviction or the denial of rental or mortgage applications because of gender identity. Our state also lacks credit lending protections based on gender identity.
The City of Madison has provided protections for our transgender community at the local level, but these protections should be applicable statewide and nationwide. The Equality Act would facilitate those goals here in Wisconsin and throughout the United States. The bill sponsors note that, due to their gender identity or sexual orientation, LGBTQ+ Americans can be denied housing in 27 states, access to education in 31 states, or the right to serve on a jury in 41 states. Only 29% of the LGBTQ population lives in states that prohibit credit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project.
The Equality Act will build upon the Supreme Court ruling and address many of those discriminatory practices that remain pervasive despite that judicial progress; therefore, I ask for your support for the swift passage of this legislation through the House and the Senate in order to expand protections afforded by existing civil rights laws to the LGBTQ+ community. It is long past time to modernize our nondiscrimination laws at the federal level to better reflect our values as a country and to ensure that every American is free from discrimination. Thank you for your consideration.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, City of Madison