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    2019: The Year of the Equality Act

    By Andrea Shorter–

    It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, and I’m feelin’ … hopeful.

    What’s so great about 2019 so far? For one, it means that 2016 is that much farther behind us, and we’re that much closer to 2020. What’s so great about 2020? The possibility of inaugurating a newly elected Democratic President to usher out the door the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    To that end, 2019 is off to a decent start. Nancy Pelosi’s reclamation as the 63rd Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives—Thank the Lord!to preside over record numbers of women, people of color and openly LGBT people as new and returning members of this 116th Congress is poised to restore some semblance of “balance in the force” as a constitutionally equal branch of government to a woefully beleaguered, reckless and off kilter Executive branch.

    The first obvious order of business for the 116th Congress is to relieve us of the Trump shutdown of the federal government. No $5 Billion for the Trump Wall, but, still, pronto.


    There’s a lot riding on this newly formed House of Pelosi, such as finally passing the Equality Act. During her gavel acceptance speech, House Speaker Pelosi said, “We will make America fairer by passing the Equality Act to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community.”

    The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit. The Act would also push back against religious liberty claims used to discriminate against LGBT people.

    A few years ago, I had the honor of working with Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, now senior ranking out LGBT member of the House, to organize a community listening session about the Equality Act in San Francisco. Joined by the Honorable Roberta Achtenberg, former San Francisco City and County Supervisor and Assistant Secretary of HUD, and former Senior Advisor to the Mayor on Transgender Initiatives, Theresa Sparks, our panel presented an overview of the proposed bill to help achieve federal protection of LGBT persons against discrimination.

    Legally sanctioned discrimination remains the state of affairs for LGBT Americans in 2019. There are too many Americans, including some LGBT people, who are under the impression that because we won the right to same sex civil marriage as the law of the land in each of the 50 states, all forms of discrimination against LGBT people are illegal. As a sobering reminder, while you can now get married on Sunday in all 50 states, on Monday you can be fired for who and how you love in 31 states.

    In the spirit of scoring some bipartisan win-wins, perhaps the Equality Act might stand a better chance even in the most divisive government since the Civil War. However it plays out on the 2019–2020 battlefield, the Equality Act should get more sunshine this time around. At the very least, support for the passage of the Equality Act should be part of the platforms of all Democrat Presidential Candidates, without exception.

    It is unimaginable for any serious contender in the 2020 Presidential race not to openly, proudly and boldly support LGBT full equality. It is equally unimaginable for LGBT people to demand anything less of any candidate or future President—whomever she might be.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights and marriage equality. A Co-founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.