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Bill aims to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people

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Despite advances made in recent years, many LGBT people in California are deeply concerned about discrimination in employment, housing, health care and other key areas of life. This is especially true at a federal level where courts have disagreed with one another about the extent to which existing civil rights law protects LGBT people against discrimination, typically under the banner of sex discrimination. The Democrats in the House of Representatives are pushing to institutionalize those protections explicitly in federal law, passing a proposal 236-173 to expand civil rights protections to LGBT people.

Eight Republicans joined all House Democrats to vote in support of the legislation called the Equality Act. It aims to update existing laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. Anti-LGBT discrimination would be prohibited as a form of sex discrimination in terms of employment, housing, access to loans, education and other forms of public accommodation. Most of the 2020 Democratic candidates for president came out with strong support for the legislation, which is backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

A wide range of LGBT advocacy groups urged support for the bill as did labor unions and other advocates against employment discrimination. Most Republicans still voted against the bill, claiming that churches and religious institutions would have their freedom curtailed as a result of the anti-discrimination provisions. The bill is expected to have a difficult time in the Senate, given that it is controlled by a Republican majority.

Even as higher courts continue to debate the level of federal protections for LGBT workers, there are some strong state and local anti-discrimination provisions that prohibit workplace discrimination. An employment law attorney may work with LGBT people discriminated against on the job to seek justice and accountability.