I couldn’t be prouder to support the Equality Act, a groundbreaking piece of legislation which will grant equal protection under the law to our LGBTQ friends, family and neighbors — as well as me and my family. As the first lesbian mother and wife to serve in the U.S. Congress, and the first LGBTQ member from Minnesota, this legislation is the culmination of a lifetime of work for so many.
My wife Cheryl and I have built a beautiful life together, raising four sons who we love dearly. We are lucky to live in Minnesota, in a state where many of the Equality Act’s protections are already enshrined into law.
But right now, there are states all across the country where it would be entirely legal for Cheryl and I to be discriminated against because of who we are and who we love — in housing, employment, access to credit or any number of other areas critical to just living our lives. It’s even harder for trans and nonbinary members of our community.
While this legislation is primarily designed to combat widespread discrimination against LGBTQ people, the benefits of the Equality Act would also extend to non-LGBTQ women. Despite that simple fact, many opponents of this legislation seem to believe that this legislation would somehow harm women and girls. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Equality Act does not undermine the achievements or aspirations of women. In fact, by amending the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in a broad area of life, we are in fact fighting to ensure that all women are treated equally in all aspects of their lives.
Despite what you may hear from rightwing opponents of equality, our legislation would not only prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but also ensure that breastfeeding individuals have rights and remedies if they are excluded from or harassed in public places. It would prevent chain pharmacies from refusing to fill a person’s birth control prescription, make it illegal to charge a woman more than a man for equal labor and so much more.
When other people gain greater rights, they are not earned at the expense of women and girls. Our hard-earned freedoms are not diminished or weakened simply because the rights of others have been enshrined under the law. In fact, our own standing is strengthened, because we are at our strongest when we expand freedom to every member of our community — especially the most marginalized among us.
Years ago, activists fighting for women’s rights argued that gender equality was critical to our society because it would empower women to engage in their communities, strengthen our societies and grow our economy. The same argument can be made today in favor of expanding the rights of LGBTQ Americans with the Equality Act — because when we outlaw discrimination and harassment against some, we all benefit and our communities grow stronger.
As a young lesbian woman growing up in rural America, I never imagined I’d finally see legislation like this reach the House floor — much less as a member of this body. But this week, after a lifetime of breaking down barriers and overcoming adversity, I have the honor of celebrating its passage. Women all across the country should join me in doing so.
Rep. Angie Craig represents Minnesota's 2nd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Follow her on Twitter @RepAngieCraig.