US: Businesses call for LGBT+ anti-discrimination law

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LGBTQ activists and supporters outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, October 8, 2019 – Image: REUTERS/Jonathan

Tech giants Amazon, Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday were among some 400 companies to call for US lawmakers to pass a key LGBT+ rights bill, that would extend equal healthcare, housing, and goods and services rights to all Americans.

LGBT+ advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said 416 firms, worth a total of $8.6 trillion, had joined its Business Coalition for the Equality Act, asking the upper house Senate to pass legislation to protect LGBT+ Americans from discrimination.

The Equality Act, which passed the House of Representatives in February, amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity for protection, alongside race, religion, sex, and national origin.

“Employers care about their employees’ ability to rent an apartment, send their kids to school, visit the dentist, and pick up the groceries free from discrimination,” HRC president Alphonso David said in a statement.

“We’re asking corporations to engage with members of Congress specifically on the importance of the Equality Act and how not having the Equality Act actually affects their businesses,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The lower house of Congress first passed the bill in 2019, but it stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate during the Trump administration, which opposed the bill. The Democrats won control of the Senate in November’s election.

For the Equality Act to become law, it must win 60 votes in the Senate, where there is a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans. A date for the vote has yet to be announced.

Several Republicans have voiced their opposition, including Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a former presidential candidate, who said he would oppose the act unless it added a provision giving “strong religious liberty protections”.

A March poll by Hart Research Associates found that 70% of 1,005 voters surveyed supported the aims of the Equality Act.

“We … believe that equal protections should extend beyond an employer’s four walls,” Carla Grant Pickens, chief diversity and inclusion officer at tech company IBM, part of HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, said in a statement.

“It’s time that civil rights protections be extended to LGBT+ individuals nationwide on a clear, consistent, and comprehensive basis.”

-Matthew Lavietes and Hugo Greenhalgh – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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