Scroll To Top

Op-ed: Hillary Will Be the Equality Act's Heroine

Op-ed: Hillary Will Be the Equality Act's Heroine


The presidential candidate could be the deciding factor in the Equality Act's success in a conservative-dominated Congress.

After decades of struggle, it took a sweeping ruling by the Supreme Court to bring marriage equality to all 50 states. It will take a lot more than that to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people for good. In fact, this June's Supreme Court ruling may have actually exposed LGBT people from coast to coast to a new form of discrimination. Today, a loving gay couple can go to City Hall and obtain a marriage license for the very first time, but simply posting their wedding photos on social media can open them up to recriminations from their boss, their landlord, or others in their community.

That's because 31 states still lack comprehensive laws that protecti individuals against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the same way that they do race, sex, religion, national origin, and other classes. Today, too many LGBT people still risk being fired from their job, evicted from their home, or denied service at a restaurant or business simply because of who they are.

In other words, even in 2015, this country's struggle to guarantee that LGBT people are treated equally is far from complete.

That's why I was thrilled to see that, leaders from both houses of Congress recently introduced the Equality Act -- the first piece of comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation that protects the entire LGBT population. If passed, it would simply guarantee that no American has to endure discrimination on the job, in housing, or in public life without legal recourse -- regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other aspect of their identity.

It's critical that Congress pass this bill, but at least today, its path forward looks uncertain. With conservatives in control of both the House and the Senate, it will take a monumental effort to overcome entrenched opposition. Just as Democratic presidents championed civil rights legislation in the past, today, the Equality Act needs a national champion of its own.

I believe that Hillary Clinton will be that champion. Shortly after the Equality Act was introduced, Clinton took to Twitter to endorse it. It's "past time" that these protections were guaranteed in law, she wrote. Clinton has taken the lead on LGBT issues for many years -- she first marched in a gay pride parade more than 15 years ago. More recently, she's spoken out against laws in Indiana and Arkansas that would have given businesses a right to discriminate against LGBT patrons. Perhaps most famously of all, as Secretary of State, Clinton championed the rights of LGBT people around the globe, declaring that "gay rights are human rights" at a United Nations gathering in Geneva.

If Clinton can show the steely resolve necessary to stand up for equality in front of diplomats from countries where LGBT people are regularly imprisoned, beaten, even killed, then foot-dragging Republicans in Congress don't stand a chance. If President Barack Obama helped transform LGBT inclusion from a wedge issue to a mainstream value, then President Hillary Clinton can be the one to finish this critical work, once and for all.

Failure to act now has real-life consequences every day. At the press conference introducing the Equality Act, Krista and Jami Contreras of Michigan told the story of how a doctor refused to treat their newborn daughter because her parents were lesbians. Carter Brown, a transgender man from Texas, told the story of how -- despite a sterling record and several promotions -- he lost his job as a real estate agent after being outed and relentlessly harassed by his colleagues. In total, 63 percent of LGBT people report having experienced discrimination in their lifetimes. After so much progress in the fight for equality, the next generation of Americans should never have to shoulder this same burden of discrimination.

If it's up to Hillary Clinton, at the very least they won't have to shoulder it alone. She is the fighter we need to get the Equality Act passed, and I have no doubt that the first female president will be the next great champion of LGBT equality in the White House.

Bruce-cohenx100_0BRUCE COHEN is an Academy Award-winning producer in film, television, and theater. He is best known for producing American Beauty, Milk, and Silver Linings Playbook. Bruce has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights and recently served as president of the board of directors of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Bruce Cohen