Another hearing on the Equality Act was held April 9 on Capitol Hill before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director of HRC testified, as did mothers of gay, lesbian and transgender children.
Warbelow identifies as bisexual and is “the proud parent of a transgender daughter.” She said she was “testifying on behalf of HRC’s three million members and supporters. The overarching message is straightforward and self-evident: discrimination shouldn’t triumph over an individual’s freedom to be themselves.”
The legal director explained the links between the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equality Act and said, “The Equality Act builds on the legacy of the civil rights statutes that have made America a stronger nation that recognizes diversity as an asset.”
She told the Committee, The 1964 Civil Rights Act dismantled the racist, sexist infrastructure that framed the daily lives of people of color and women in this country. The Equality Act will provide critical protections from discrimination for the LGBTQ community, women, communities of color and people of faith.”
Warbelow was succinct when she spoke about the need for the Equality Act for LGBTQ people fighting for access to public accommodations and protection from discrimination, “It would make it possible for individuals and businesses to know their rights by reading a sign in the break room, instead of going to the court room.”
Warbelow ended her testimony, saying, “Now is the time to pass the Equality Act. LGBTQ people live in every state and nearly every county, coast to coast. We are your family, friends, and neighbors.”
Kimberly Shappley was one of several parents who testified about the impact the Equality Act would have on children. Specifically, she testified about discrimination her transgender daughter has faced.
Shappley is Faith Outreach Coordinator for Equality Texas. She told the Committee her family had to relocate to a more inclusive educational community when her daughter’s school would not accept her. “The biggest thing about being in an inclusive school district is that Kai is just a kid now. She ran upstairs to write in her diary about using the restroom at school. How sad is that?”
Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), a black woman and former educator, said, “Our education system should be built in such a way that all children know they will be treated with dignity and respect.”
Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL), the youngest black woman ever elected to Congress, reflected changes made in the 116th Congress. She said, “63 percent of LGBTQ Americans report experiencing discrimination in their everyday lives. Nearly half report experiencing discrimination in the workforce. The Equality Act will establish federal protections to vulnerable LGBTQ communities. I am proud to support this bill.”
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) ended the hearing, saying, “All Americans should have full confidence in their rights regardless of who they love or who they are.”
Outside, a protest lead by faith leaders was held in favor of the Equality Act. The protest, organized with the Center for American Progress, a progressive, independent nonpartisan policy institute, drew supporters on the warm spring day in Washington. Lesbian, gay and bisexual clergy spoke out about their commitment to the Act.
HRC states that “backed by nearly 70 percent of Americans, hundreds of members of Congress, more than 180 major businesses and more than 350 statewide and national organizations, the Equality Act has growing, unprecedented support.”
The House Committee on Education and Labor put the issue succinctly in a tweet, saying, “A majority of states still have no explicit laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment. No American should fear losing their job because of who they love. That is why we must pass the #EqualityAct.”