Congressman Lowenthal Helps Lead House Effort to Ensure Full LGBT Equality

July 23, 2015
Press Release
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) has signed on as an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT individuals in public accommodations, housing, employment, and other core areas of daily life.

"The time has come to put an end to discrimination against LGBT individuals.  Though we saw a great victory at the Supreme Court recently, that decision only underscores the need to ensure that not only do LGBT individuals have the same right to marry the person they love that I do, they should not be able to be fired because they are gay," Congressman Lowenthal said.

"They should not be able to be denied housing because they are lesbian.  They should not be able to be harassed at school because they are transgender.  And, no American should be discriminated against, harassed, or denied service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.'  The passage of the Equality Act we are introducing today would bring us one step closer to that ideal."

The Equality Act, which is sponsored by Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) in the House and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in the Senate, will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation, which Rep. Lowenthal helped introduce during a press conference earlier today, would apply to public accommodations, federal funding, education, employment, housing, credit, and jury service.

The legislation was co-sponsored by 157 members of the House.

Despite last month's Supreme Court ruling that affirmed marriage equality, discrimination against LGBT individuals remains legal in most states. Today, only 19 states and the District of Columbia offer employment and housing protections for the LGBT community. And three other states have prohibitions on discrimination based solely on sexual orientation.

Only 17 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination for public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Another four prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Just 14 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education. And only one state, Wisconsin, prohibits it based on sexual orientation.

A study conducted earlier this year by the non-partisan Human Rights Campaign found that 63 percent of LGBT Americans have experienced discrimination in their personal lives. Another study found that one out of every 10 lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual workers have been fired from a job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a show of support for the legislation, the Congressman has decided to continue flying the Pride flag outside his office until comprehensive non-discrimination legislation is signed into law. The historic flag has flown outside the Congressman's office since March 2013 and, according to both the Architect of the Capitol and the Historian of the House, is considered to be the first Pride Flag to ever be officially flown outside a Capitol Hill Congressional office.

Members of Congress have permanent fixtures outside each office to accommodate three flags, with two going to the American flag and the member's state flag. The third slot is often used for a personal selection of the Congress member.

Prompted to fly the Pride flag after hearing arguments at the Supreme Court in 2013 to overturn California's discriminatory Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, the Congressman originally declared that he would fly the flag outside his office until same-sex marriage was the law of the land. This occurred on June 26, 2015, with the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Under the direction of the Congressman, the Pride flag will remain flying outside both his Washington, D.C. office and inside his District office in Long Beach, California until the Equality Act is passed and signed into law.