Ask Lambda Legal – How Would the Equality Act Work?

Since the bill known as the Equality Act was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate in July, questions have arisen about how it is designed to protect LGBT people and its potential impact on employers, businesses and religious entities.
To help provide answers, legal teams at Lambda Legal, American Civil Liberties Union, Center for American Progress, Family Equality Council, Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, SAGE, and Transgender Law Center teamed up and developed a guide to understanding the act and its provisions. Topics discussed include employment, housing, education, credit, jury service and public accommodations.
Below are edited excerpts from this guide. The full version is available at Lambda Legal Publications
What would the Equality Act do?
The Equality Act would prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity at work and in the context of housing, credit, education, and jury service. It would also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex in programs that receive federal funding and places of public accommodation, while also expanding the list of protected places of public accommodation to include retail stores, transportation services like airports, taxis and bus stations, and service providers like accountants.
Would religious entities be covered under the Equality Act?
The Equality Act would add explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to multiple existing civil rights laws and adds protections against gender, gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination to federal laws covering public accommodations and federal funding. It would not change the religious exemptions already in place in federal law. Under current federal law, religious organizations may prefer to hire people of the same faith, but may not discriminate in employment based on race, color, sex or national
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