Tonight, the Providence City Council members voted to pass a resolution urging the United States Senate to pass the Equality Act. The resolution was sponsored by Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13). It was Co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), and Councilors Helen Anthony, Esq. (Ward 2), Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), John Goncalves (Ward 1), Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8), and Councilman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3)
The Equality Act was introduced to the House of Representatives by Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline and in the Senate by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon in 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021. It was finally passed by the United States House of Representatives in 2019 and 2021 but has died in the United States Senate committee. After the United States Supreme Court’s June 2020 ruling in the Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which upheld protections for gay and transgender individuals in employment matters under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its subsequent amendments, now there is more support in the Senate for passage. The City Council members are urging the body to take this bold and meaningful action to codify the rights of every person living in the United States.
“First, I want to thank our Federal Delegation, especially Congressman Cicilline, who has worked doggedly on this act for the past seven years. Even as it languished in the House and Senate, he still believed that the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community were worth the battle. I am proud that he represents Rhode Island and am grateful for his leadership. The Equality Act will codify and protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which has been missing from the Civil Rights Act for decades. The Equality Act wil also protect against discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in health care, and even in financial lending,” stated Councilor Rachel Miller.
The Equality Act will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several other federal laws around employment and discrimination in public spaces, services, and federally funded programs.
“Former United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once stated, ‘We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to society, because we fit into a certain mold, because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.’ With that statement, she was referring to what women have endured for generations. It is equally true for LGBTQIA+ communities that face higher rates of suicide, bullying, and the alarming rates of murder amongst transgender women. The Senate must pass the Equality Act, and I know that our Rhode Island Delegation is supportive, and I hope that we can all agree that discrimination of any kind needs to be removed from our legal system,” stated Council President Sabina Matos.
Many studies have shown that members of the LGBTQIA+ community face high levels of discrimination in housing. The bias is noted to come in many different ways: being denied housing, charged higher rents, or being removed from housing once a landlord realizes the orientation or the gender expression of the renters. Additionally, the Equality Act will add protections to LGBTQIA+ individuals living in 27 states which do not have state-wide LGBTQIA+ anti-discrimination laws.
“There are currently 27 states where, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, my right to be free from discrimination in employment, housing, and other civil protections is not protected by law. I am proud to be a member of this body that tonight took a stance for equality for all,” concluded Councilor Miller.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation. The City Council members hope that the United States Senate will pass Senate Bill 393 – The Equality Act.