Securing LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Protections Nationwide
with Kasey Suffredini of Freedom for All Americans
At the time of this interview, 21 U.S. states have explicit protections for LGBTQ Americans. In the remaining 29 states, it is legal to be denied employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Kasey Suffredini, CEO and National Campaign Director of Freedom for All Americans, joins Tetiana Anderson to discuss efforts to secure LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections nationwide.
May 28, 2021
Anderson: According to a 2020 survey, one in three LGBTQ people has faced discrimination. That includes more than three in five transgender Americans, and the risks are further exacerbated for Black and other minority LGBTQ people. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. There are no federal nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And in 29 states, there are no state laws that fully protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. That leaves a majority of the U.S. population vulnerable. Joining me to talk about all of this is Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans. And, Kasey, thanks for being here.
Suffredini: Oh, thanks for having me, Tetiana.
Anderson: So, we've seen these moves towards federal legislation before. We saw it happen in 2019. We saw it happen again in 2021. But you say the climate is different on this second go-round and that the practical application of these laws would be different. What do you mean by that?
Suffredini: Well, we have a historic opportunity in 2021 to finally pass a federal law that would protect all LGBTQ Americans from discrimination. And the reason we have that historic opportunity is, for the first time in 50 years that we've been trying to pass these protections, we have a president who wants to sign this bill. We have a Congress, congressional leadership who want to pass this bill. And we have a supermajority of public support across all geographies, all demographics, all political ideologies who support getting these protections over the line. So 2021 is the year that Congress must act, must pass this bill. President Biden will sign it. And all LGBTQ Americans, no matter what zip code they call home, will finally have the protections that they need to ensure that they're treated with dignity and respect. Anderson; So, there are certainly laws on the books in some states that offer protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But you say that's simply not enough, because there are key groups of people who are disproportionately impacted by the lack of federal laws. Who are you talking about?
Suffredini: Well, there's millions of LGBTQ Americans who live in one of those 29 states that actually don't have explicit protections from being denied an apartment because of who they are, being denied a job because of who they are, being refused service at a public place just because of who they are. A federal law would ensure that each of those Americans in any of those states would also have the same protections that LGBTQ Americans have in the 21 states that do have explicit protections. And we know this is an important moment, particularly for Black and brown LGBTQ Americans who are especially vulnerable to discrimination and really bear the brunt of it, to make sure that they have those protections everywhere in America. It's not fair that you could live in one zip code and be protected and live in another zip code and not be protected. And that's why we need Congress to step in and make sure that there's equity across all states.
Anderson: So, clearly, you're a supporter here of amending or strengthening the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But you also say that you do understand the pushback coming from some people who say that this could be an infringement on their religious freedoms. What exactly is their argument, and what do you say to them?
Suffredini: I think that there is a misunderstanding about the relationship between the freedom of religion and the freedom to be -- the ability to be free from discrimination, which fuels a lot of the disagreement in this space. But I think there's more agreement and more that we agree on than is being currently articulated. So freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination are both critically important, foundational ideals of America. And the good news is that existing civil rights laws have always struck a balance between the freedom of religion and the freedom from discrimination. And our effort to pass a law that would update federal civil rights laws to include LGBTQ people doesn't change that balance. It simply adds the words "sexual orientation and gender identity" to those existing civil rights laws, ensuring that longstanding balance that has always worked and will continue to work once these protections are passed. And that's why so many people of faith are actually supportive of these federal protections and want to see them passed. Over 100 faith organizations have endorsed the federal law that we want to pass. It's called the Equality Act. And they support it not in spite of their faith, but actually because of it, because at the end of the day, what this is actually about is the golden rule -- treating each other the way that we want to be treated, ensuring that all Americans, including LGBTQ Americans, are treated with dignity and respect.
Anderson: So, the goal of your organization is to make these changes by 2025. It's not a long way off. How are things going, and what do you really think it will take to make that happen?
Suffredini: Well, the reality is, is that 2025, while it doesn't sound that far right now, it is a long time, given the fact that we've worked to try to secure these protections for almost 50 years already. That's why it's so important that 2021 be the year that this law is finally passed. And that's why it's so important that the president wants to sign this bill, that congressional leadership want to pass this bill, and that we have this supermajority of Americans who want to see Congress act. What it's going to take to get it done is for everybody who's watching this to have one-on-one conversations with your friends, with your family members, with your neighbors about why it's urgent that we get these protections passed, about why it's the case at this point in 2021 that America is ready for these protections, and why Congress must act. And people must also call their Congress members, particularly your senators, even if you think they're supportive. It's important that we push them to get this done this year.
Anderson: And, Kasey, if people want to find out more about your organization, where can they go? What's the website?
Suffredini: They can visit our website at freedomforallamericans.org. And they can also follow us on Twitter @FreedomForAllUSA.
Anderson: Kasey Suffredini, thank you so much for being here.
Suffredini: Thank you so much for having me, Tetiana.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers, as well, for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the country, log onto comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.