Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the historic Equality Act, an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that would protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, housing, jury selection, and public accommodations.
Today, there are 28 states without any such explicit protections, and where workplace discrimination (be it in the form of an offensive microaggression or employment termination) is legal. But today's landmark bill marks a monumental step towards making all workplaces nationwide safer spaces for LGBTQ+ employees.
Today, while roughly 80% of non-LGBTQ+ people say LGBTQ+ people shouldn’t hide who they are at work, it is estimated that 46% of LGBTQ+ Americans are in the closet at work. According to Out And Equal, 52.8% of LGBTQ+ employees report that discrimination has negatively affected their work environment, and nearly 1 in 10 have left a job because they felt the environment was unwelcoming. For transgender employees, the numbers are even more extreme: More than three-quarters of trans employees have reported taking steps to avoid mistreatment in the workplace. Unemployment rates are higher for queer people than for heterosexuals, and the unemployment rate for transgender individuals is even worse, at three times the national average.
All House Democrats voted unanimously in favor of the Equality Act, with eight Republicans voting across party lines. Still, in order to become law, the bill must pass the Republican-controlled Senate, which has a long history of backing anti-LGBTQ+ policy, and many conservatives see this bill as an affront to religious liberty and women.
If it doesn't pass in Congress, ultimately it will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether worker protections from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual identity will become law. Advocates have tirelessly pushed for protections to be written into federal law, and the House's most recent vote means we're one step closer to this becoming reality.
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