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ENDA Replaced by Broader Equality Act

equalflagOn July 23, Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR), along with 40 other senators, introduced the Equality Act of 2015, which would make employment and other forms of discrimination against LGBT individuals unlawful. The legislation was filed concurrently in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. David Cicilline (RI) and 158 other representatives.

The Equality Act seeks to build upon the momentum gathered in the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic decision affirming the legality of same-sex marriage by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federally-protected classes. The bill would expand the scope of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Jury Selection and Service Act to make discrimination against LGBT individuals unlawful under federal law. While some states have enacted similar laws, discrimination against LGBT individuals is not illegal in most states. According to the Human Rights Campaign, which is the primary supporter of the bill, 63 percent of LGBT Americans have experienced or continue to experience discrimination in their personal lives.

Notable provisions included in the bill are as follows:

  • Amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect against employment discrimination.
  • Amends Titles II, III, IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make unlawful discrimination in public accommodations, public facilities, public education and by entities receiving federal funds for use in a range of programs, including financial assistance for higher education.
  • Amends Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by allowing the attorney general to adjudicate in equal protection cases under the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Clarification that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) cannot be used to justify any anti-discriminatory practices by any individuals or entities that are made illegal by the Act.

CUPA-HR supported similar legislation of Sen. Merkley’s, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), in the 113th Congress. As CUPA-HR begins evaluating the Equality Act of 2015, we will be sure to compare these two bills to ensure that this newest bill is structured to minimize confusion and unforeseen repercussions while supporting new workplace laws and regulations that are specifically designed to remedy documented discrimination in the workplace.

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