Senate Democrats on Wednesday reintroduced legislation that would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes, alongside the existing protected classes of sex, race, religion, and national origin.
The legislation, which has been introduced on numerous occasions since the 1970’s, would prohibit employers, landlords, school administrators, and others from discriminating on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
“We have introduced the Equality Act because everybody deserves to have the same opportunities and the same opportunity to chase their ambitions and the same shot at success,” Senator Tammy Baldwin (D., Wisc.), a co-sponsor on the bill, told Elle. “The Equality Act is our answer to this challenge.”
During an October speech at Harvard University, Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed to prioritize the passage of the bill if her caucus reclaimed the House majority, citing the Trump administration’s efforts to strengthen religious liberty in explaining its importance.
Baldwin similarly cited the Trump administration’s hostility to federal overreach in announcing the legislation Wednesday.
“There are tangible things you can point at that the president and his administration have done that have gone backwards in terms of legal protections for people in the LGBTQ community, whether it’s in his Education Department, his Justice Department, in the Department of Defense,” Baldwin said. “There are ways that very clearly he has walked back progress that was hard fought over decades, which is a reminder that we can never rest.”
The Trump administration in April established a new division within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand civil-rights protections to protect health-industry workers from being compelled to participate in procedures such as abortion and assisted suicide. The move drew legal challenges from LGBTQ-advocacy groups on the grounds that it would facilitate discrimination by religious hospitals and other groups.