Seattle City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday urging Congress to introduce and adopt “The Equality Act,” which would grant equal protection to LGBTQ residents across the United States. Currently, individual states are able to deny access to housing, employment, education, public accommodations, and more because of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The Equality Act would set a national standard that fully prohibits discrimination under the law based on gender identity or expression.
Resolution 31738 is sponsored by Councilmember Lisa Herbold and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Bruce Harrell, Mike O’Brien, and Lorena González. The legislation was developed in partnership with LGBTQ Allyship, the Gender Justice League, Seattle LGBTQ Commissioners, and LGBTQ equality advocate Richard Noble.
The resolution adopted Monday states, “we find that federal laws that fully prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression are essential to furthering the well-being of the residents of and visitors to Seattle.”
Seattle joins with other cities calling for adoption of the Equality Act, including Boston and Palm Springs. Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative David Cicilline first filed the Equality Act bill in 2015-2016. The legislation has not yet been introduced in Congress’ 2017 session. However, both Congressman Adam Smith and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal expect the bill to be reintroduced soon and both intend to co-sponsor the original bill.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park), the legislation’s sponsor and Chair of the Council’s Civil Rights Committee, said, “State borders shouldn’t dictate whether a person can lose their housing because they’re gay or be rejected for a job because they identify as transgender. Seattle joins with a growing coalition of cities from around the nation to show Congress that The Equality Act has broad support and that America is not a place that tolerates discrimination.”
Council President Bruce Harrell (District 2, South Seattle) said, “The rights and freedoms of every single individual must never be denied. Our government at the highest level must be strong leaders in reaffirming our declaration that everybody deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and by our society.”
Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle) said, “Frankly, I’m appalled that there are still states in this nation that enable blatant discrimination against people in our LGBTQ community. The Equality Act will help ensure that LGBTQ Seattleites visiting other states won’t be denied basic services like being seated in a diner or rented a room in a motel.”
Councilmember Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide) said, “As a former civil rights attorney, I stood by people who challenged all forms of discrimination. The Equality Act is not only needed, it is long overdue. People across the country deserve to live as their full selves and without fear of discrimination. We call upon our Congressional representatives to ensure that the letter of the law matches our long-held values of equity, fairness and opportunity.”
Congressman Adam Smith (WA-9) said, “I am a proud supporter of the Equality Act, which will provide clear and consistent federal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals. Even after the June 2015 Supreme Court of the United States marriage equality victory, a couple who gets married remains at risk of being discriminated against at their place of work due to some states’ lack of anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The Equality Act establishes explicit and permanent protections for LGBTQ individuals in matters of employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service. We need to fight for equality at all levels of our government, and I remain dedicated to fighting for policies that ensure justice for the LGBTQ community.”
Mayor Ed Murray said, “No state should be allowed to discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or, frankly, because of who they love. I second Councilmember Herbold and her co-sponsors on the City Council for demanding that Congress guarantee equal rights of LGBTQ people nationwide. Washington state has had these constitutional and common sense rights on the books for over 10 years. It’s time for members of Congress to stand up to bigotry and protect the LGBTQ community nationally.”
In the resolution, Council Monday also declared today, March 13, 2017, “Equality Act Day.”
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