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Out Congressman David Cicilline: Why I Introduced the Equality Act

Out Congressman David Cicilline: Why I Introduced the Equality Act

"The American people deserve to know who will stand up and speak out for those on the margins of society," writes the U.S. representative from Rhode Island.

The last few months have not been easy for our community.

During just over 100 days in office, President Trump has already rescinded the Obama administration's guidelines that ensured transgender students could use facilities consistent with their gender identity. A draft executive order that leaked to the media suggests that he also wants to let businesses deny services to LGBT Americans. And his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, has consistently ruled against transgender individuals and argued that courts should not have a role in the marriage equality debate.

It might be easy, in the face of such disappointing policies, to become disillusioned and disengaged.

But the truth is that, as President Obama said last January, Donald Trump's presidency is just a comma, not a period. It's a brief pause in our ongoing struggle for social justice and equality.

And the truth is that it's more important now than ever before that we continue fighting to advance full equality for all LGBT Americans.

That's why, this morning, I introduced the Equality Act of 2017.

The Equality Act is a very simple bill. It says that every American, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is entitled to equal treatment in the eyes of the law. It amends existing federal civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations, and the use of federal funds.

No American should ever face the threat of discrimination or bigotry.

Yet, even two years after the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, millions of LGBT Americans can still get married on a Saturday, post photos of their wedding on Facebook on Sunday, and then get fired on Monday just because of who they are. And in most states it's completely legal.

Today, only 20 states and the District of Columbia offer protections for employees against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and only an additional three states prohibit sexual orientation-based discrimination. It's no surprise then that one out of every 10 LGBT workers reports that they've been fired from a job because of their sexual orientation, and nearly two out of three have experienced discrimination in their personal lives.

Those numbers are staggering. We have to fix this broken and unfair system. And passing the Equality Act and the comprehensive protections it offers is the only way we are going to get there.

Now, I have no illusions that President Trump or Republicans in Congress will join me in this effort.

But it's important that the American people know who is fighting for full equality. The American people deserve to know who will stand up and speak out for those on the margins of society.
Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress want to bring us back to a time when LGBT people were denied basic fundamental rights.

They want to resurrect an idea of America that leaves behind millions who have faced discrimination and marginalization for decades.

Our nation is at a crossroads. We cannot let them succeed in taking America down the path of intolerance and bigotry.

Over the centuries, America has always moved towards fulfilling the promise that all people are equal in the eyes of the law. It's a value enshrined in our founding documents. And although the path towards that goal has not always been easy, it's an ideal we still cherish more than two centuries later.

We believe that fairness and equality are what make America great. And we believe that fairness and equality will always overcome the forces of hatred and discrimination.

It's time -- in fact, it's past time -- for LGBT Americans to enjoy the same rights and liberties that all Americans hold sacred.

And in my mind, there is no question that the Equality Act will become law. It's only a matter of when Republicans in Congress and the White House will find the political courage to do what is right.

I am confident that if the citizens of this country remain deeply engaged in the civic life of our country, then we will succeed in choosing the path of equality.

This is simply not the time for surrender. This is the time to fight for equality and the shared values of our country.

DAVID N. CICILLINE has been the U.S. representative for Rhode Island's First Congressional District since 2011.

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