New Coalition Promotes Passage of Equality Act


A new national campaign, Freedom & Opportunity for All, has launched to advocate for the passage of the Equality Act.

The effort is led by 16 founding organizations, which will collaborate with hundreds of other organizations across the country.

“With the support of these organizations, the campaign will work to grow support for the Equality Act, educate Americans on the urgent need for the Equality Act, and engage and mobilize supporters to take action and reach out to their lawmakers,” says a press release. “The campaign will do this through a mix of activities including legislative advocacy and lobbying, building and implementing national advertising campaigns, and executing traditional communications tactics and social media campaigns.”

The initial monetary investment in the campaign is $4 million, and this is expected to grow to eight figures.

The Equality Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing national civil rights laws covering employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, jury service, and more, and it would expand the definition of public accommodations, therefore providing benefits for women, people of color, and others in addition to LGBTQ+ Americans. Currently, 29 states do not have laws banning anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. It was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in February and had its first hearing in the Senate — before the Judiciary Committee — last week.

It passed the House two years ago but never came to a vote in the Senate, which then had a Republican majority, and Donald Trump opposed it. But now both chambers of Congress have Democratic majorities, and President Joe Biden supports the bill and has made its passage a priority. However, to receive a vote in the Senate, it must overcome the filibuster — a procedure under which it takes a vote of 60 senators to end debate and move to a vote on the legislation.

Opponents of the act have engaged in fearmongering about transgender people and the fact that the bill states the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not provide legal cover for discrimination, although it is supported by many faith leaders. New polling from Hart Research Associates has found that 70 percent of Americans, including 50 percent of Republicans, support the Equality Act.

Hundreds of members of Congress, hundreds of advocacy organizations, and more than 60 business associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers — have endorsed the act. Nearly 400 major U.S. companies — including dozens of Fortune 500 companies such as Coca-Cola, Apple, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, and Kellogg — have endorsed the Equality Act because they believe it is good for their employees and their businesses. Collectively, these companies have headquarters based in 33 states overseeing operations in all 50 states, and generate a collective revenue of $6.5 trillion. In total, these companies employ more than 13.5 million people across the United States.

The organizations that founded and are leading the Freedom & Opportunity for All campaign are the Center for American Progress, Equality Federation, Freedom for All Americans, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, GLSEN, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, National Black Justice Coalition, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Women’s Law Center, PFLAG National, SAGE, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and the Trevor Project.

“The lives of millions of LGBTQ people in this country and our families would be improved through the Equality Act, best exemplified by the comments of Rep. Marie Newman (D) at the recent Senate Judiciary hearing: ‘No American should have to live a lie … you will feel deep depression, anxiety, and yes, suicidal,’” Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, said in the release. “This is what is at stake for our community. Our lives. Our children’s lives. Our friends’ and families’ lives. The gift and opportunity 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. We will do the work to prove it and are proud to be part of Freedom & Opportunity for All.”

“When LGBTQ young people are excluded or treated differently solely because of who they are, it can negatively impact their mental health and sense of self,” said Amit Paley, executive director and CEO of the Trevor Project. “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 to grant LGBTQ people the same legal protections as everyone else.”

“For too long, transgender people have experienced discrimination in every aspect of life,” added Andy Marra, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. “The Equality Act will finally provide protections for LGBTQ people nationwide and bring us one enormous step closer towards full legal and lived equality for transgender people. The moment to pass the bill is now, and we are honored to work alongside a bipartisan group of people of faith, business leaders, and civil rights partners to get the job done.”

Find out more here.

This article was originally published in The Advocate on March 23, 2021.

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