By Annie Bennett
When I interned at the It Gets Better Project, I realized how little protection queer people have on a nationwide scale. Sure, my state was doing alright. But, what about those in the LGBTQ+ community who don’t have that privilege? For many of them, even in 2022, they can legally be discriminated against just for being gay.
“Why hasn’t anyone done anything about this? They should pass a law that makes that illegal,” I thought. So, imagine my surprise when I found out that there already was one. But, per our neverending bureaucracy, it is still stuck in the ratification process. So, we as activists must come together to get things moving again.
The Equality Act is, at its core, a lifesaving piece of legislation. It would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people on a nationwide scale in all major spheres of society, including housing, education, public spaces, and employment. In 18 states, there are no anti-discrimination laws for queer people. That means you can be fired or even denied housing simply for being gay.
Queer youth are more likely than their cishet counterparts to commit suicide, experience homelessness, and/or be sexually assaulted.
Watch the Video: Annie Bennett asked LGBTQ young people why they’re passionate about the Equality Act!
The Equality Act would help change that and we, as residents of the United States, have a responsibility to support this bill. The future is up to lawmakers and, whether it seems like it or not, politicians do listen to their constituents. A Congressional office is required to record the topics of all correspondence from constituents. So, if you’ve ever contacted a representative, that support is on record and which bills have the most support can later be used to determine stances come election season. All of this means… we have the power to create a future that we want to live in.
Too often, religious freedom is used as an excuse for bigotry in our government. The separation of church and state is a cornerstone of the Constitution and yet people will try to claim that the Equality Act violates their religious freedom. In fact, it does the opposite. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) is a nonprofit that, among other things, is trying to limit the misinformation being spread about the Equality Act and get the bill through the Senate.
For example, AU explains, the Equality Act would not change existing religious exemptions in civil rights laws or alter the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It wouldn’t even interfere in places of worship, such as by requiring churches to hire women as ministers or perform same-sex marriages. The majority of leaders in every major faith support the Equality Act! That’s because all this bill does is ensure that LGBTQ+ people are included as a protected class in public institutions. How simple is that?
Lately, the state of civil rights for queer folks has seemed a bit regressive. It’s frustrating to feel like no progress is being made. But, the fact is, these anti-LGBTQ+ legislators have no ground to stand on. Both morally and constitutionally, fundamentalist christianity has no place in our laws. So, I ask those in the LGBTQ+ community, and our allies, where does your senator stand on the Equality Act?
It’s time to make the Equality Act a priority in Congress.
– Annie Bennett is getting her journalism degree at Emerson College and is originally from Maryland. She is a youth organizing fellow for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.