Throughout its history, America has symbolized equality of opportunity for people of all races, origins, religions and creeds, serving as a beacon of hope for anyone seeking a better life. But despite its founding principles of equality and acceptance, the United States also has a long history of denying basic rights to certain people. As Americans we overwhelmingly agree that discrimination is wrong – no matter what form it takes, whom it targets, or where it occurs – yet discrimination in this country persists in a variety of ways.
Today, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are denied many of the basic rights that most Americans enjoy. Certainly, the movement for full equality has has come incredibly far in a short period of time – from the first-ever LGBT-inclusive hate crimes law Congress passed in 2009, to executive orders prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors in 2014, to nationwide marriage equality in 2015. But many barriers remain, and LGBT Americans still face discrimination in many facets of their lives.
Jared is committed to putting a stop to discrimination in all its forms and bringing our laws in line with our values as a nation.
Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus
Shortly after he was elected to Congress, Jared joined with Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. (now Sen.) Tammy Baldwin to launch the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. The caucus currently has a total of 91 members (including two Republicans) who are strongly committed to ensuring that human rights for LGBT people in the U.S. and around the world are fully protected. The Equality Caucus is committed to working toward the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and wellbeing of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Equality Act
Last year’s Supreme Court decision making bringing marriage equality to all U.S. states and territories was a historic victory in the movement for equality, but LGBT Americans still face discrimination in many aspects of their lives – such as at school, at work, when they try to buy a home, or when they apply for a loan.
In 28 states, for instance, same-sex couples have no legal recourse if their landlords decide to evict them from their home. In 31 states, it is still legal to fire an employee because they’re gay or transgender. In 36 states, there are no laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT students in schools.
In June 2015, Jared joined with Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to introduce comprehensive civil rights legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in seven critical areas of life: employment, education, housing, public accommodations, jury service, credit, and federal financial assistance. Entitled the Equality Act, the bill brings the protections afforded to LGBT Americans into parity with those afforded to members of other protected groups who face discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or national origin.
The Equality Act has earned broad and far-reaching support from the business community, faith groups, civil rights advocates, and millions of Americans who are committed to the cause of equal rights. When it passes, it will bring an end to legal discrimination against LGBT individuals in every U.S. state and territory.
Stopping Discrimination in Schools
Every day, students who are (or are perceived to be) lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are subjected to pervasive discrimination, including harassment, bullying, intimidation, and violence. These hostile school climates drag down our education system and have lasting negative impacts on students’ mental health and academic achievement.
Recent surveys show that eight out of ten LGBT students report experiencing harassment at their school within the past year based on their sexual orientation. Discrimination against LGBT and gender nonconforming students has a direct and negative impact on the students’ education. Nearly a third of LGBT students reported skipping a class at least once and three in ten reported missing at least one entire day of school in the past month because of safety concerns. Worse still, a nationally representative study of students grades 7-12 found that LGBT students are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as their peers – oftentimes citing persistent bullying and harassment as a reason.
While civil rights protections expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability and national origin, they do not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result, LGBT students and parents often have limited legal recourse for this kind of discrimination.
To address this lack of protection and ensure that all students have access to public education in a safe environment free from discrimination, Jared introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act – a bill to establish a comprehensive federal prohibition on discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill would ensure that public schools live up to their obligation to provide all students – regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability status – with a safe, high-quality education that prepares them for college and a career.
Transgender Equality Task Force
In November 2015, Jared helped launch the first-ever Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force. Though LGBT Americans have made historic gains throughout the country in recent years, transgender Americans are still subject to extreme violence and discrimination. In 2015 alone, at least 21 trans women were murdered. Even compared with lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans, transgender Americans are disproportionately bullied in schools, discriminated against in the workplace, and denied places to live.
The goal of the task force is to bring awareness within Congress of the challenges facing the transgender community and develop legislation to protect trans folks from the violence and discrimination that is currently widespread throughout the nation.
For more information on or questions about Equality & Civil Rights issues, please contact Bo Morris in the Washington Office. You can also visit Congressman Polis' Legislation Page or find information on bills and amendments that he’s cosponsored in Congress.