Democrats in the House and Senate plan to unveil a sweeping new civil rights bill for LGBT Americans on Thursday, providing federal protections for sexual and gender minorities in every state. Specifically, the bill would bar discrimination in seven areas: credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service, and public accommodations. Its sponsors have called their measure the Equality Act, and they are currently seeking Republican cosponsors.
The Equality Act, of course, will go absolutely nowhere in this Republican-dominated Congress. Still, it’s notable for two reasons. First, it suggests that as soon as Democrats regain a majority in both the House and Senate, an omnibus LGBT civil rights bill would be a top priority. Second, it sounds the death knell of ENDA, the ill-starred LGBT employment nondiscrimination bill which wound up so defanged that it was barely worth passing. Congressional Democrats have wisely decided to set their sights on prohibiting LGBT discrimination in a broad array of services and accommodations, rather than focusing only on employment. It is nice to say that LGBT people deserve to be free from harassment and bigotry in the workplace. It is better to say LGBT people deserve to be equal citizens under the law.