WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, 40 Senators, led by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced historic, comprehensive federal legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT Americans.
The legislation was filed simultaneously in the U.S. House of Representatives by 158 Representatives, led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).
"Brave men and women in every generation throughout America's history have mustered the conviction to fight for freedom and equality against all odds - from abolitionists and suffragettes to civil rights activists," Booker said. "With each fight for justice, ordinary people have challenged our nation to become a more perfect union. The Equality Act builds on the work of those who have struggled and fought for LGBT rights by extending basic civil rights protections that must be guaranteed to every American. Together, I know we can achieve justice for those who endure discrimination due to their gender identity or sexual orientation."
"The time has come for us as a nation to be bolder and better in ensuring full rights for the LGBT community," said Merkley. "Every person deserves to live free from fear of discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love. Enacting the Equality Act will bring us another significant step forward in our nation's long march towards inclusion and equality. It will extend the full promise of America to every American."
"I believe America is ready to take the next steps forward in the march for fairness, equality, and opportunity for every American. A growing number of Americans believe their LGBT family members, friends, and neighbors deserve to be treated like everyone else in the United States. Yet today in America, in 31 states, LGBT Americans live without fully-inclusive non-discrimination laws. In a majority of American states, LGBT Americans do not have the freedom of full equality," said Senator Baldwin, "It's now time to take bold legislative action and pass on to the next generation an America that is more equal, not less. Every American deserves the freedom and opportunity to dream the same dreams, chase the same ambitions, and have the same shot at success. The introduction of the Equality Act marks an important and historic step forward for our country."
"Our country has made tremendous strides in ensuring equal rights for all but there is much more work to be done," said U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. "The Equality Act of 2015 gives LGBT Americans the equality they deserve and protects them against discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and other areas of law where discrimination is now openly embraced. This commonsense legislation is long overdue. I stand with my colleagues in support of these vital protections for members of the LGBT community."
"One month ago, the Supreme Court issued a historic decision affirming that same-sex couples across the nation have the right to marry whom they love," said Senator Dick Durbin. "Today, the Equality Act continues the important work of expanding basic protections against discrimination to LGBT individuals. Now is our chance to be on the right side of history and ensure no American faces discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity."
"After years under a legal cloud, marriage equality is finally the law of the land," said Senator Charles E. Schumer. "Unfortunately, tucked away in the shadows of our laws, discrimination is still allowed to flourish. The Equality Act will shine a light on that injustice, and continue our commitment to ensuring that all Americans have the same rights, no matter who they love. I applaud Senators Merkley, Baldwin and Booker as well as Rep. Cicilline and Lewis for their leadership on this issue and this historic legislation."
"This year, we've seen major victories for the LGBT community, but even as we take strides toward equality, we must remember that there is more work to do," said Senator Patty Murray. "In far too many places in our country, LGBT Americans and women remain vulnerable to discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love. I am proud to support the Equality Act, and I look forward to building on the momentum we've seen recently and deliver on our nation's promise to equality for all."
"While LGBT Americans are now able to marry the person they love, they continue to experience discrimination in many other aspects of their lives. Achieving full equality means that LGBT individuals should be able to provide security for their families without fear that they will be fired from their jobs or denied housing. As far as we have come, we still have a lot farther to go in our march toward a more perfect union. I am proud to join in introducing the Equality Act, and I hope that all Senators support this effort to ensure equality for all Americans," said Senator Patrick Leahy, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Despite major advances in equality for LGBT Americans, including nationwide marriage equality, in the majority of states, an LGBT couple could be married in the morning and risk being fired from their jobs or evicted from their apartment in the afternoon.
The Equality Act of 2015 would ensure full federal non-discrimination equality by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to other protected classes, such as race or religion, in existing federal laws.
The bill would ban discrimination in a host of areas, including employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, and federal funding.
The bill would also add protections against sex discrimination in parts of anti-discrimination laws where these protections had not been included previously, including in public accommodations and federal funding.
In addition to Merkley, Baldwin, and Booker, the legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Video footage of Sen. Booker's remarks from today's press conference can be found here.