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Federal Bill Banning Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination Passes in the House

On Friday, May 17, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in workplaces, public accommodations, housing and more.  Called the “Equality Act of 2019,” the bill would amend several civil rights laws to protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federally funded programs, credit and jury service.

The bill passed by a fairly wide margin in the Democrat-controlled House (236-173), but will have a hard time passing in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, the bill is backed by a number of prominent businesses, which may have a strong effect on its passage.

The Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”), a LGBTQ rights advocacy group, has formed a coalition to back the bill and has garnered the support of over 200 employers in its effort. Apple, Amazon, Bank of America and Ben & Jerry’s are just some of big-name employers pushing for the Bill’s passage alongside the HRC. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also in support, sending House members a letter referring to LGBTQ equality as “essential to ensuring America’s free market system continues to thrive.”  The letter also claims the bill is vital to “enabling our diverse workforce to reach its full potential without fear of discrimination.”

The timing of the bill is likely not a coincidence either.  As we wrote last month, the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a trio of LGBTQ cases and decide once and for all if Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ employees. With the current law being scrutinized by the high court to determine this very issue, it should come as no surprise that there is a push to establish these rights in stone. It is likely, however, that even if the legislation somehow passes in the Senate, President Trump will veto it.

We will continue to monitor this bill and the cases headed to the Supreme Court, and provide you with any updates.  The times are a changin’ and employers must keep up.

Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on civil rights issues and employment laws in general. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com  or 203.454.0560.