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GOP offers answer to Equality Act; LGBTQs criticize measure
2019-12-06

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On Dec. 6, Republican Utah Rep. Chris Stewart unveiled the so-called Fairness for All Act—legislation that supposedly protects LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in areas such as housing, employment, education and other public services.

However, the act also employs religious exemptions for various organizations—a part of the act that many LGBTQ activists and groups criticize. Also, businesses with 15 employees or fewer could discriminate against LGBTQ customers. In addition—unlike the more inclusive, bipartisan proposal The Equality Act—access to abortion services are not protected.

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said he "strongly oppose[s]" the Fairness for All Act because it sells LGBTQ people short and erodes existing protections under federal civil rights law, according to The Washington Blade.

In addition, a joint statement condemning the Republican measure was backed by national advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Center for American Progress (CAP), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), GLAAD, Lambda Legal, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Black Justice Coalition (BJC), National Fair Housing Alliance, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), PFLAG National and the Transgender Law Center.

The joint statement said, in part, "The 'Fairness for All' Act is anything but fair, and it certainly does not serve all of us. It is an affront to existing civil rights protections that protect people on the basis of race, sex, and religion and creates new, substandard protections for LGBTQ people with massive loopholes and carve-outs, and upends critical federal programs that serve children in need.

"This legislation is deeply dangerous for many reasons, mainly because it would erode protections that already exist for people based on race, sex and religion, rolling back protections that have been on the books for decades. It would expand the number of places and situations in which lawful discrimination could occur.

"The Equality Act was passed through the House of Representatives with bipartisan support, and nearly 70 percent of Americans support comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The "Fairness for All" Act, on the other hand, was introduced by a small group of lawmakers. This legislation licenses discrimination while eroding the rights of people of faith.

"It is wrong, and we strongly oppose it."

In a separate release, Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings said, "While we acknowledge these historic first steps, we believe that any legislative remedy must be comprehensive in addressing the full range of discrimination faced by LGBTQ Americans, and unfortunately, the Fairness for All Americans' Act fails to meet that standard, prompting Lambda Legal to [take part in the joint] statement with other civil rights organizations."


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