DAYS AFTER the gay nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, the House of Representatives refused to vote on a critical amendment that would afford protections to the LGBT community. Republicans in the House, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, stymied the latest attempt to enforce President Obama’s executive order that makes it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In most states, it is still legal to discriminate against members of the LGBT community in housing, employment, education, and several other areas. The Equality Act would change that, enacting anti-discrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on the federal level. But the eight attempts to get it through Congress since 2007 have all failed, thanks to Republican legislators’ opposition.
The Equality Act made it farther than ever in 2013, when it passed the Senate, but went no further. Some Republicans decided to support it once a “religious exemption” provision was added that, many advocacy organizations feared, allowed for anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination as protected religious freedoms.
Denying access to employment and housing kills people. Death by discrimination is no more acceptable than death by a gun just because it tends to be slower and perpetrated under the pretense of Christian principles. That’s why I’m asking that we all — Republicans, Democrats, independents, religious, agnostic, atheist — throw a f**king fit to our legislators.
We have a majority.
A majority of Americans from every demographic support anti-discrimination legislation. Interviews with more than 42,000 Americans, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), found that 71% support it.
PRRI then broke the results down by demographic. A majority of Republicans support it. A majority of evangelicals support it. Once again: A majority of every demographic supports it.
And yet the Equality Act has gone nowhere in the past few years. It was introduced in both the House and the Senate in July of 2015, containing a clarification that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act can’t be used to legalize discrimination. It has 210 co-sponsors in Congress. Only two of them are Republicans.
That Republican representatives have refused to represent their constituents on one of the most important social issues of our time is completely unacceptable. Whether you’re on the right or left, and whether your representatives already support this legislation, you can put pressure on them to get it in motion and get it passed.
Some things you’ll need:
- You can learn both who your representatives are and where they have stood on the Equality Act at the Human Rights Campaign’s site. Enter your zip code and use the “Learn More” tabs for each politician to see how they voted.
- Check to see which of your representatives are up for re-election this year. Every House of Representatives member is, and about one-third of senators are. Check here to see which senators are running.
- See if your state has non-discrimination legislation that protects on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity with this map.
- Get your congressional representatives’ contact info. If your state hasn’t enacted anti-discrimination legislation, get state representatives’ contact info as well.
If your congressional representatives supported the legislation:
Write or call to thank them, and tell them you expect them to make passing such legislation a primary goal.
If they are up for re-election, you can tell them that, as a voter, you want not only their continued support if it comes up again, but their vocal and active efforts to get this legislation on the table and passed.
Ask them to oppose amendments for religious exemptions that could create a loophole that keeps discrimination legal.
If they are not up for re-election in 2016, you can let them know your future support hinges on their effort. Or, if you weren’t going to support them anyway, inform them that their voter base largely supports this legislation, and they ought to keep that in mind.
If your congressional representatives have not supported the legislation:
Write or call and tell them that 71% of Americans want this legislation, including a majority of Republicans, and that it’s time to do their job and represent their constituents.
If they are up for re-election, you can tell them your support hinges on reversing their position on anti-discrimination legislation.
If they are not up for re-election, you can tell them that your future support depends on their willingness to represent their constituents. Or, if you were not going to support this representative anyway, let them know that they are out of step with their voter base on this issue, and, if they wish to remain in office, they should keep that in mind.
If your state hasn’t enacted anti-discrimination legislation:
Write or call your state representatives and demand that they represent the people by drafting, sponsoring, and co-sponsoring legislation. You can tell them that support from their base may hinge on their doing so.
Republicans voters, get loud.
Republicans in Congress are responsible for blocking anti-discrimination legislation, though most Republican constituents approve of it. If the Republican majority writes or calls their legislators, joins protests with liberals and Democrats, and even organizes its own protest events at representatives’ headquarters, this could have a huge impact.
LGBT rights is not a Democratic or liberal issue. It’s a human rights issue that people on all points of the political spectrum are largely behind. Congress has made it look like a left vs. right issue because Republican representatives are not faithfully representing their constituents. Tell them that time is up.
The hardest step.
To be effective, this push should not fade as the Orlando tragedy becomes more distant. We need to work to get the Equality Act passed until the act is passed. Keep your awareness raised long-term. Keep demanding that the legalized discrimination of the LGBT community see its long-overdue end.