On Eve of Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, National Leaders Rally In Support of the Equality Act


On Eve of Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, National Leaders Representing Broad, Diverse Sectors of the Public and Millions of Americans Rally In Support of the Equality Act

Unprecedented Support for the Equality Act Comes from Civil Rights Leaders, Women’s Advocates, Business and Corporate Leaders, Educators, Faith Leaders, Medical Community, and Millions of Americans 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to hear witness testimony on Wednesday, March 17 on the Equality Act — legislation that would modernize our nation’s civil rights laws for all while expanding to include the prohibition of anti-LGBTQ discrimination — an unprecedented number of national leaders, representing broad, diverse interests and perspectives, are rallying in support of the Equality Act. 

In addition to the witnesses who will testify on Wednesday — including HRC President Alphonso David; Stella Keating, a 16-year-old trans activist; and Dr. Edith Guffey, MSW, PFLAG National Board of Directors Member, Conference Minister of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference of the United Church of Christ — many other voices representing the perspectives and interests of millions of Americans from all corners of the country are rallying in support of the Equality Act, including:

CIVIL RIGHTS: Major civil rights organizations including American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP LDF, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Black Justice Coalition, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, AAJC | Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

WOMEN: Major Women’s Rights groups including National Women’s Law Center, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and more.

EDUCATORS: The American Federation of Teachers; the American School Counselor Association; the National Education Association; Service Employees International Union; and the National Association of Social Workers).

CORPORATIONS: The Equality Act has and has been endorsed by more than 350 major companies, including dozens of Fortune 500 companies such as The Coca-Cola Co., Dow Chemical Co., Gap Inc., IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg Co., Marriott International Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Target Corp.

BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS: The Equality Act has overwhelming support among more than 60 business associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

MEDICAL COMMUNITY: Major medical associations including American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, American Heart Association and others.

RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES: More than 120 faith-based organizations such as the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Interfaith Alliance, and Faith in Public Life.

THE AMERICAN PUBLIC: More than two-thirds of Americans in every state, of every faith and political affiliation, support laws protecting LGBTQ people. 

The full list of organizations supporting the Equality Act can be found here. Below are quotes from national leaders on why they’re supporting the Equality Act and why Congress must move with urgency to pass this landmark legislation. 

SENATE HEARING WITNESSES 

Alphonso David, President, Human Rights Campaign: “This Wednesday will be an historic opportunity to advance equality for all. For the first time in our decades-long fight for equal rights, the Senate will host a hearing on the Equality Act and I welcome this important opportunity to highlight the need for this critical legislation. The Equality Act is a unifying issue for our nation enjoying support from more than two-thirds of Americans and an unprecedented number of businesses who believe that not only is achieving equality the right thing to do but that it is also good business. Thank you Chair Durbin for holding this hearing, and inviting me to participate. Together, our movement will make our voices heard and finally ensure LGBTQ people have the legal protections they need and deserve.”

Dr. Edith Guffey, MSW, PFLAG National Board of Directors Member, Conference Minister of the Kansas-Oklahoma Conference of the United Church of Christ: “We should all be able to agree on this one thing: The law should treat all our children — God’s children — equally. Every single one of us would go to the mat for our children; none of us wants them to be turned away or discriminated against for any reason. Without the Equality Act, the law does not fully protect me as an African American woman, and it does not protect my trans non-binary child.”

Stella Keating (she/her), 16 year-old trans activist: “I am a young person who believes in the value of hard work, respecting others and giving back to my community. I’ve loved politics my entire life, and it’s my goal to run for public office someday.  I just need the chance to live my life and achieve my dreams. Passing the Equality Act will allow me the freedom to do that in whatever state I choose to live in. Shouldn’t I have the right to live freely in the country that I love?”  

NATIONAL ADVOCACY LEADERS

James Esseks, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union LGBTQ & HIV Project: “The ACLU is urging members of the U.S. Senate to vote for racial justice. To vote for gender justice. To vote for trans justice. Many mistakenly think that it already violates federal law to racially profile customers in stores and on transportation, or to sexually harass someone in these spaces. But we still need to update our federal civil rights laws to close these gaps. That’s a core part of what the Equality Act would do. And that’s why the U.S. Senate should vote yes on this landmark legislation.”

Hudson Taylor, Founder and Executive Director of Athlete Ally: “From the workplace to the classroom, locker room, playing field and beyond, LGBTQ+ Americans deserve to be fully who they are and afforded the same rights and access as anyone else. This is a pivotal moment for equality and inclusion, and we hope to see the Equality Act signed into law.”

Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress: “At its core, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing centers around one fundamental question — do LGBTQ people deserve to be treated fairly under the law? In the past year, 1 in 3 LGBTQ people experienced discrimination. And our ongoing public health and economic crises only further underscores the detrimental impacts of discrimination and stigma on the lives and livelihoods of LGBTQ people. Passing the Equality Act not only ensures LGBTQ people are treated as full and equal members of society, but also expands protections for religious minorities, women, and people of color. Over 80% of the country recognizes the time for these protections has come, and I urge the Senate to stand in unity with their constituents and pass the Equality Act.”

Denise Spivak, CenterLink CEO: “Our network of LGBTQ centers serve nearly 58,300 individuals per week and refer another 25,000 individuals to other agencies or providers,” said CenterLink CEO Denise Spivak. “They are safe spaces for LGBTQ people – people who are our friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers. But centers should not be the only safe spaces. LGBTQ people are entitled to the same benefits that every other citizen is – whether it’s having access to a place to live, being served by a business or government office, or earning a living. Discrimination of any kind has no place in our society, and we must work to ensure that it is neither sanctioned nor ignored.”

Fran Hutchins, Executive Director of the Equality Federation, the movement builder and strategic partner to state-based organizations advocating for LGBTQ people: “No one should be denied basic protections from discrimination simply based on what state or zip code they call home. Yet, 29 states do not currently have laws that explicitly protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. For decades, LGBTQ visionaries in all 50 states have built a movement to advance policy priorities that allow their community to be treated with basic dignity and respect. The Equality Act is much-needed legislation that will ensure a more free and equal America for all of us, and there is a groundswell of people in state and local communities calling on lawmakers to pass it as soon as possible.”

Kasey Suffredini, CEO and National Campaign Director of Freedom for All Americans: “The personal stories of ordinary LGBTQ Americans who are impacted every day by discrimination — and the stories of their family members, friends, and others who love them — is what will finally bring this nearly 50-year effort to pass a federal nondiscrimination law, now in the form of the Equality Act, over the finish line. These brave witnesses are the face of all the hopes, dreams and challenges that are wrapped up inextricably with the fate of this long-sought and broadly-supported legislation. We hope Senators will hear these stories, open their hearts and join the overwhelming bipartisan supermajority of Americans who have concluded this country is ready to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination nationwide.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President & CEO: “Overwhelming majorities of Americans, from all faiths, already support protections against discrimination for their LGBTQ family, neighbors, co-workers and friends. The Equality Act ensures those values are secured into law. Those who use their platforms to spread misinformation and endanger LGBTQ people prove why The Equality Act is so needed. Every LGBTQ person deserves to know they will be safe, can belong and can have the same chances to succeed as anyone.”

Janson Wu, Executive Director, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders: “An overwhelming and bipartisan majority of Americans support updating our federal laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people as a simple matter of fairness. Passing the Equality Act will ensure that LGBTQ people – and all people – can contribute to their families, communities, and workplaces while being treated with the dignity and equality all Americans need and deserve.”

Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, Interim Executive Director, GLSEN: “LGBTQ+ students and educators in K-12 learning communities across the country must be able to rely on clear and comprehensive federal protections that remove barriers to opportunity and wellbeing. We must pass the Equality Act to ensure that all students including those who are transgender, nonbinary, Black, Indigenous, people of color, and people with disabilities are able to thrive and reach their full potential in school and throughout their lives.”

Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal: “The time for comprehensive federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people is long overdue. The current patchwork of protections is painfully inadequate and fails miserably to ensure dignity and fairness for everyone. We have an incredible opportunity to finally get the Equality Act across the finish line. Let’s get it done.”

David J. Johns, Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition: “The Equality Act would provide clear and consistent federal protections for LGBTQ+/SGL people, but it’s critical to underscore that the bill also offers important protections for Black people, women, and members of other marginalized, stigmatized communities. The Equality Act is a bill for us all: It is designed to ensure that everyone in this country is treated with respect, dignity, and equality, regardless of who we are or how we show up in the world.” 

Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund: “Tomorrow we will witness history. This hearing will impact the lives of millions of LGBTQ people and we will all be watching. We are ready to fight for the passage of the Equality Act and welcome a full and fair discussion of how this will make the lives of LGBTQ people better and help this nation take one more step towards living its values of equality and justice for all. The National LGBTQ Task Force believes in the power, diversity and goodness of people and it is this that has led to our commitment to advocate for justice for all people and work to ensure our country actively respects, embraces, and values all its people. The gift of this moment is to look deep inside of our collective selves and ask, ‘What are the limits of Love and Justice?’ We believe they are unlimited. Tomorrow, we can prove it.”

Fatima Goss Graves, President & CEO of the National Women’s Law Center: “The Equality Act represents a landmark step in the fight against all sex discrimination. The lives of LGBTQ women are marked by discrimination at every step, from the class room to the board room to the locker room, and this bill will strengthen the rights of all women to live free of fear from discrimination. This is especially true of transgender women and LGBTQ women of color, whose risk for violence and abuse is worsened when we deny them full rights under the law. Our commitment to inclusion of transgender women is inseparable from our commitment to safety, dignity, and justice for all women.”

Imani Rupert-Gordon, NCLR Executive Director: “With this historic Senate hearing, we begin to carve a clear path to LGBTQ legal equality and a new day for our country. The harsh reality is that current federal anti-discrimination protections do not protect everyone. These gaps are harmful to LGBTQ people and women, who continue to face disproportionate discrimination in nearly every aspect of their lives. The Equality Act builds on the important legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and will extend protections to the most underrepresented in our communities in housing, healthcare, education, public accommodations, and other aspects of everyday life.”

Mara Keisling, Executive Director, National Center for Transgender Equality “Passing the Equality Act would mean that transgender people could worry less about disrespect, discrimination, and even violence, and we could live our lives as more full members of society.  It is long past time to Congress to get this done.”

Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates: “This hearing is a historic opportunity for Senators to grasp the urgent need for them to pass this bill. Every day that goes by without the Equality Act means another day when LGBTQ people can face discrimination in virtually every sphere of daily life. No civil rights bill has ever enjoyed this level of support from the business community. America’s business leaders know that the status quo is morally unacceptable. They know that discrimination is bad for business. They are losing patience with the political leaders who stand in the way of progress.”  

Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National“As a gay man living with HIV, raised in rural America, with a deep faith in God, and taught to have respect for all people, I have to pick and choose which businesses I frequent, where I choose to get healthcare, where I live, work, and travel. When I have no choice, all I can do is hope to be served without discrimination. This is because, like all LGBTQ+ people, I am not protected under current federal law and depend on a patchwork of local laws to protect me. For hundreds of thousands of PFLAGers across the country, the Equality Act represents the opportunity for this country to live up to its promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all.”

Michael Adams, CEO, SAGE: “LGBT+ elders have faced down discrimination of all sorts their entire lives. For just as long, they’ve been advocating for the same legal protections everybody else has. Our elders can’t afford to wait any longer.  The time to act – and to enact the Equality Act – is now.”

Andy Marra, Executive Director of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund: “Trans youth are under attack across the country. We are heartened that Senators will hear directly from a young trans person about the impact their votes will have on her life. As the Senators of the Judiciary Committee will hear, there is no time to waste in passing the Equality Act. Trans lives hang in the balance.”  

Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, the largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth: “When LGBTQ young people are turned away from a business, told they cannot enter a space or participate in a program simply because of who they are or who they love, it can be incredibly harmful to their mental health and sense of self. According to The Trevor Project’s research, LGBTQ youth who experienced discrimination in the past year attempted suicide at more than twice the rate of those who did not. It is long past time for the Senate to pass the Equality Act and protect all LGBTQ people from the harms of discrimination.”

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