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LGBTQ Pioneers Descend on DC to Reintroduce Equality Act

Friday Mar 15, 2019

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, and other pro-LGBTQ leaders in Congress announced the reintroduction of the Equality Act, a critically important piece of federal legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing civil rights laws and strengthen protections for LGBTQ people, including women, religious minorities, and people of color.

The legislation explicitly recognizes the discrimination that LGBTQ older people face when seeking housing and accessing spaces like senior centers. The bill also acknowledges the higher rates of poverty found among LGBTQ older people.

The Equality Act would provide consistent and explicit protections from discrimination for LGBTQ people in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces, and services; federally funded programs; and jury service. It also adds protections on the basis of sex in public accommodations and expands the list of protected places of public accommodations. This list includes retail stores, transportation services like airports, taxis, and bus stations, and service providers.

Previously, protected characteristics included race, color, national origin, religion. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity means that spaces LGBTQ elders access, including those that provide goods, services, or programs—such as service or care centers—will now be covered under an expanded list of public accommodations. For the first time, federal law will provide explicit protections for LGBTQ older people in accessing federally funded services and supports.

"The time is now to pass the Equality Act, to once and for all provide federal protections for millions of LGBT people across the country who are still battling discrimination and fighting for their right to be treated equally," said SAGE CEO Michael Adams.

"The fact is, nearly two-thirds of LGBT people across the country have experienced discrimination. For LGBT elders, the problem is made far worse as a result of a lifetime of social stigma and prejudice, particularly in areas like housing," continued Adams. "Nearly half of same-sex couples report experiencing discrimination when looking for a home. We urge Congress to pass the Equality Act to ensure that millions of LGBT people no longer have to live in fear of being denied a job, a place to live, or access to health care simply because of who they are or whom they love."

The Equality Act was introduced simultaneously with SAGE's first-ever National Day of Advocacy in Washington, D.C., bringing together LGBT trailblazers, older people living with HIV, and allies from across the country to meet face-to-face with their elected officials. SAGE's National Day of Advocacy was held in conjunction with the annual leadership conference for SAGE's 30 affiliates, hailing from 20 states and Puerto Rico.

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