Half of all LGBTQ Americans live in a state without equal employment and fair housing guarantees. David Stacy of the Human Rights Campaign discusses the proposed Equality Act, which would amend federal civil rights law to include the LGBTQ population. This discussion continues in part 2 (The Equality Act: Reintroduced).
Interview recorded on May 17, 2017. Part 1 of 2.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: Fewer than 20 states offer explicit antidiscrimination protections for LGBTQ citizens. That means half of all LGBTQ Americans live in a state without equal employment and fair housing guarantees. One organization aims to bridge the gap by championing legislation at the federal level. David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, joins me to discuss. David, welcome to the program. It's good to see you.
Stacy: Thanks, Robert.
Traynham: Walk us through specifically what the Equality Act attempts to do.
Stacy: Sure. Well, the Equality Act would amend federal civil rights law to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in every area of law that we protect, other categories. So, employment, housing, credit, public accommodations -- really, the range of services and activities where everyday Americans would participate but might face discrimination in their lives. So when they go into a store, you don't want to be turned away because you're LGBTQ. Or in your job, you want to be sure that you're protected in your job and not discriminated against because of who you are.
Traynham: Or perhaps if you maybe want to rent an apartment, the landlord legally can say, "You know what? I'm not interested in renting to you."
Stacy: That's right. That's right. Or if you're married and they don't want to -- if you're a same-sex couple and you're married, and they want to turn you away because you're a same-sex couple, that's something that's a challenge.
Traynham: You know, David, what's so interesting is, here we are in 2017. The Supreme Court obviously ruled in favor of legalized marriage for gays and lesbians and so forth. It feels like the society has moved to a sense of normalcy with this. But obviously, the state legislators are yet to pick up on this. Why is that the case?
Stacy: Well, Congress is a lagging indicator. And you know, members of Congress are really more followers than leaders. And the American people really are there, by and large. Recently, a poll came out that shows that 64% of Americans now support marriage equality. It was much lower when the Supreme Court made the marriage-equality decision. And then when you take a look at nondiscrimination protections, even more of the public is with us. Consistently, polls are over 70% showing support for federal nondiscrimination protections.
Traynham: Talk to us about the Human Rights Campaign, and specifically what you do.
Stacy: Sure. The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest LGBTQ human and civil rights organization. We lobby Congress. We lobby state legislatures. We do political activities, as far as engaging our membership in elections. We have a foundation that ranks corporations -- our corporate equality index. We rank healthcare organizations. And so, we really try to make change in both policy changes in the legislature and Congress and in local government, as well as trying to change institutions. You know, right now, more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies have nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation, and more than 75% on gender identity. And so, we've really made tremendous progress in trying to change institutions, even though Congress is a little bit slower sometimes.