Mid-South advocacy groups respond to passage of LGBTQ+ Equality Act

Updated: Feb. 26, 2021 at 4:49 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Despite major steps forward when it comes to equality for the LGBTQ+ community, there is still a lack of legal protections, and many are hoping the Equality Act will change that.

Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a landmark LGBTQ rights bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity when it comes to employment, housing, education, public accommodations, credit and jury service.

“At the end of the day what we all want is a fair shot. This isn’t about special privileges, this isn’t about special rights for special populations, this is about equal rights for everybody,” said Shahin Samiei, Shelby County committee chair for the Tennessee Equality Project.

The Tennessee Equality Project is a non-profit that focuses on LGBTQ advocacy in the realm of public policy.

Shain says having legal protections for the LGBTQ community is critical.

“Public polling on the national level indicates approximately 2/3 of LGBTQ Americans have faced some form of discrimination in their private lives, and having a law like this would equalize the playing field for LGBTQ Americans,” he said.

The act would also amend the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, something Faith Morris with the National Civil Rights Museum says has been done eight times because it wasn’t specific enough.

“The Civil Rights Act as groundbreaking as it was with the intentions of protecting people of all races and all persuasions in America, it still did not go as far as it needed to as far as the intention were,” said Morris.

The Equality Act passed with a vote of 224-206 and the support of three Republicans.

Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen voted in favor of the bill while Republican Rep. David Kustoff voted against it.

“We need to pass this bill and continue our move to a more perfect union,” Cohen said before the vote, Thursday.

We reached out to Kustoff about the decision behind his vote, but have not heard back.

Meanwhile, Samiei is hoping senators will vote in favor of this bill.

“I think what we really need is to see our senators step up and demonstrate that they represent as their job...they represent all Tennesseans, and when they go to Washington, they have to remember that every single day to vote in that regard,” said Samiei.

The Equality Act is expected to face an uphill battle when it goes to the Senate.

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