240 members of Congress have put their weight behind a bill to outlaw anti-LGBT discrimination in the United States.
There are currently no federal-level protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the US.
This means that it is legal to fire people or deny them services for being gay in more than 30 states due to patchy state-level protections.
The Democrats have repeatedly tried to add LGBT rights protections to existing anti-discrimination civil rights laws, but Republicans in Congress have blocked both the Equality Act and its predecessor, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
The Democrats today staged a high profile relaunch for the Equality Act legislation, though hopes are not high that the legislation will pass given the Republican majorities in both houses.
Senator Cory Booker is one of the bill’s sponsors
The Human Rights Campaign describes the bill as “bipartisan legislation”, but in the previous session it was backed by just three Republican lawmakers.
HRC says the law would “provide clear and equal protections under federal law for all Americans in vital areas of life, like employment, access to public spaces, housing, credit, education, jury service, and federally-funded programs.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “No person’s fundamental rights should be determined by which side of a state line they live on.
“The Equality Act will once and for all end the unacceptable patchwork of non-discrimination laws across this country that leaves LGBTQ people at risk.
“Every American should have a fair chance to earn a living, provide for their families, and live their lives without fear of discrimination. And at its core, that’s what the Equality Act is all about.”
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HRC points to polling that shows the overwhelming majority of Americans still support anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
Polling released last year by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that support for a bill like the Equality Act topped 70 percent nationally, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. The survey found majority support for the Equality Act in all 50 states.
However, on a state level, opponents of LGBT rights have had some success derailing debates around discrimination protections by using scaremongering tactics around transgender people in bathrooms.
A horrific ad in support of Republicans in Texas and North Carolina depicted the rape of a little girl in an attack on LGBT rights protections.
LGBT activists will be keen to avoid a similar tactic being employed on a national scale, and will emphasise the broad base of corporate support for the law.
90 of America’s most influential corporations have backed the law, including Unilever, Coca-Cola and Google.
They are Abercrombie & Fitch Co.; Accenture; Adobe Systems Inc.; Advanced Micro Devices Inc.; Airbnb Inc.; Alcoa Inc.; Amazon.com Inc.; American Airlines; American Eagle Outfitters; American Express Global Business Travel; Apple Inc.; Arconic; Automatic Data Processing Inc.; Bank of America; Best Buy Co., Inc.; Biogen; Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corp.; Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.; Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc.; Brown-Forman Corp.; CA Technologies Inc.; Caesars Entertainment Corp.; Capital One Financial Corp.; Cardinal Health Inc.; Cargill Inc.; Chevron Corp.; Choice Hotels International Inc.; Cisco Systems Inc.; The Coca-Cola Co.; Corning Inc.; Cox Enterprises; CVS Health Corp.; Darden Restaurants Inc.; Delhaize America Inc.; Diageo North America; The Dow Chemical Co.; Dropbox Inc.; E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (DuPont); eBay; EMC Corp.; Facebook Inc.; Gap Inc.; General Electric Co.; General Mills Inc.; Google Inc.; The Hershey Company; Hewlett Packard Enterprises; Hilton Worldwide Inc.; HP Inc.; HSN Inc.; Hyatt Hotels Corp.; IBM Corp.; Intel Corp.; InterContinental Hotels Group Americas; Johnson & Johnson; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; Kaiser Permanente; Kellogg Co.; Kenneth Cole Productions; Levi Strauss & Co.; Marriott International Inc.; MasterCard Inc.; McGraw Hill Financial; Microsoft Corp.; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Monsanto Co.; Moody’s Corp.; Nike Inc.; Northrop Grumman Corp.; Office Depot Inc.; Oracle Corp.; Orbitz Worldwide Inc.; PepsiCo Inc.; Procter & Gamble Co.; Pure Storage Inc.; Qualcomm Inc.; Replacements Ltd.; Salesforce; SAP America Inc.; Sodexo Inc.; Symantec Corp.; T-Mobile USA Inc.; Target Corp.; Tech Data Corp.; TIAA; Twitter Inc.; Uber Technologies Inc.; Unilever; Warby Parker; Wedding Wire Inc.; Williams-Sonoma Inc.; and Xerox Corp.
Democrat Hillary Clinton had promised to prioritise passing the Equality Act if elected President.
Democrats promised the LGBT anti-discrimination bill would be a “top priority,” suggesting it could be discussed in the House within the first 100 days of a Clinton presidency.