Many of the largest employers in the US have backed the Equality Act, a bill set to be reintroduced to Congress that would add federal discrimination protections for LGBT+ people.

It is currently legal to discriminate against LGBT+ people in 30 US states due to patchy state-level protections, as efforts to pass US-wide LGBT+ civil rights laws have been stalled in Congress for decades.

The Equality Act, which would extend existing civil rights laws to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, will be reintroduced in the House of Representatives next week in a bid to break the impasse.

Equality Act to be reintroduced in Congress

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to make the bill a priority after Democrats regained control of the chamber, though it will face a tougher ride in the Senate, where Republicans who have held up the bill’s passage for years continue to hold a majority.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday (March 7), Pelosi said: “Next week, will be launching our Equality Act to end discrimination for the LGBTQ community and we will be launching our initiative to protect the Dreamers and temporary-protected status persons in our country.

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol February 14, 2019 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol February 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty)

“We said these things during the campaign, and we’re getting it done and we are telling the public about the paths that we are on to get them turned into law to make a difference in the lives of the American people.”

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Business leaders unite to back Equality Act

Ahead of the reintroduction of the Equality Act, 161 of the country’s largest employers have united in support of the legislation.

Human Rights Campaign’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act includes companies with a combined 8.5 million employees across the United States, and a combined $3.7 trillion in revenue.

The coalition unites famous corporate rivals including Coca-Cola and Pepsi; Google, Apple and Microsoft; Facebook and Twitter; Kellogg’s and Hershey and Target and Amazon.

HRC President Chad Griffin said: “[These companies] are sending a loud and clear message that the time has come for full federal equality.

“By standing with the LGBTQ community and joining the fight to pass the Equality Act, these companies are demanding full federal equality for the more than 11 million LGBTQ people in this country who deserve to earn a living, raise their families and live their lives free from discrimination.

“These leading employers know that protecting their employees and customers from discrimination isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business.”

Passing Equality Act is vital, say business leaders

Kevin Walling of The Hershey Company said: “If our nation is to compete on a global stage, our federal laws must ensure that all employees are treated with the same respect.”

Mark King of Kellogg’s said: “We firmly believe in diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace, marketplace and in the communities where we work and live.

“Supporting the Equality Act demonstrates our continued commitment to creating an environment in which all employees are included, treated with dignity and respect, and are empowered to achieve their full potential.”

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