By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office
Did you know that there are just 18 states that have explicit workplace non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, or that a mere 13 states have such protections in place for LGBT students?
On Tuesday, the director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office delivered that message to the Senate Judiciary Committee during her testimony on the state of civil and human rights in the United States. "Despite remarkable progress in recent years in expanding the number of states with the freedom to marry for same-sex couples," said Laura W. Murphy, "there is a startling dearth of explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans."
In July, the ACLU, along with other leading LGBT rights organizations, announced a withdrawal of support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) due to a provision – unprecedented in federal law – that would have given religious organizations carte blanche to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At the time, we said that our recommendation was simple: to treat anti-LGBT discrimination the same as other prohibited forms of discrimination under our nation's civil rights laws.
In her testimony before the committee, Murphy continued:
From the ability to obtain a public education free from discrimination to being able to work and find housing without fear of being rejected because of who you are or who you love, the lack of explicit protections for LGBT Americans is unacceptable.
Murphy concluded her testimony by calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination bill that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Amazingly, such a bill has never been introduced in Congress.
In 2015, it's time – beyond time – to change that.
Going forward, we must take a holistic approach to the many ways in which discriminatory treatment negatively impacts the lives of LGBT people. The time has come for a comprehensive bill that builds on a half century of civil rights protections and will further the long-sought goal of explicit, effective, and, above all, equal federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.