Equality Act introduction

From the Equality Act of 1974 to the Equality Act of 2015: Protecting LGBT People from Discrimination

On July 23, 2015, I had the opportunity to join the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Deputy Director, Rachel Laser, at the Capitol Building for a press conference for the introduction of the Equality Act.

The Equality Act (H.R. 3185/S. 1858) would amend existing civil rights legislation in order to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, credit, and jury selection based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibit sex discrimination in public accommodations and federal funding. The bill and its introduction were historic in many ways, especially since the LGBT community has focused on just federal employment non-discrimination protections for the past two decades.

Yet, while the introduction of the Equality Act was historic, it was by no means unprecedented—in fact, forty-one years ago, Representatives Bella Abzug (D-NY), along with Representative Ed Koch (D-NY), introduced a similar piece of legislation, also called the Equality Act, which would have amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in order to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, marital status and sex in employment, public accommodations and housing.

The Equality Act of 1974 was truly historic in every sense of the word—it was the first piece of federal legislation that would have protected people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Liz Abzug, Representative Abzug’s daughter, recently told the Washington Blade that while “liberal groups” understood why Representative Abzug introduced the Equality Act of 1974, they “still couldn’t believe that she did it.” In addition, Liz explained to the Blade that while the Stonewall riots played a role in her mother’s decision to introduce the bill, the introduction had more to do with “her understanding as a leader, a civil rights leader and someone who broke barriers.”

Forty-one years later, it is time for Congress to fully realize the dream that Representative Abzug put forward when she introduced the Equality Act of 1974. It is time for Congress to pass the Equality Act and ensure that LGBT people are explicitly protected from discrimination based on their identity.  It is time for Congress to listen to the will of the people, who overwhelmingly support non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. It is time for Congress to act.

Take action here to urge your members of Congress to support the Equality Act.

Since 1977, both the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis have been leaders in the faithful call for LGBT equality. As Jews, we are taught that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27), and therefore deserve to live their lives free of discrimination.  Furthermore, our rabbinic tradition’s emphasis on gender diversity teaches us that all people, regardless of their gender identity, deserve to be treated with respect. As Jews, we have a moral obligation to speak out against injustice, and these core principles have guided our LGBT advocacy over the decades. Take action here to support the Equality Act!

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Jordan Dashow

About Jordan Dashow

Jordan Dashow is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. He graduated in 2014 from Tufts University and is originally from Plainview, NY where he is a member of Manetto Hill Jewish Center.

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