The Equality Act? It’s about time!

By Ellen Ratner

This week was the 65th anniversary of a famous Supreme Court Ruling known as Brown v. Board of Education. It was really Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, but is now just called Brown v. Board.

The ruling basically said segregated schools were unconstitutional, even if the segregated schools were just as good as other schools. In a 9-0 decision, the justices said it violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Most people don’t realize that Massachusetts allowed gay marriage to begin on the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. They had many weeks in which to make gay marriage legal, but chose to do it on the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision. This was because of a State Supreme Court case ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health which said it was unconstitutional under the Massachusetts Constitution to allow only opposite-sex couples. It was the first state in the Union to allow for same sex marriage.

As of 2017, there are 26 countries that allow same-sex marriage, including certain parts of Mexico. Currently 73 countries have laws that make homosexuality illegal, down from 92 countries.

The website 76Crimes notes Chad adopted a new anti-gay law in 2017. In Trinidad, the high court overturned the country’s anti-sodomy law. In 2018, India’s Supreme Court overturned the nation’s 158-year-old prohibition of sex “against the order of nature.” Angola adopted a new Penal Code without an anti-gay provision. And in Taiwan, lawmakers voted in favor of legalizing gay marriage, the first such move by an Asian country.

This week in the U.S., a vote took place in the House of Representatives on expanding the equality provided to minorities. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

Passed in a 236 to 173 vote, the Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other statutes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, public education, access to credit, jury service, federal funding, housing, and public accommodations. …

Advocates noted it was the first time “a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill” had ever come to the House floor. They compared it to laws that ensured civil rights for women and African Americans. A diverse group of organizations including the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, NAACP, National Retail Federation and American Medical Association publicly backed the bill. …

“Today, we have an opportunity to send a message now to help end discrimination in our country and set all of our people free,” Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, a longtime civil rights activist, said to applause.

Republicans argued the bill would lead to biological males dominating women’s sports, violate religious freedom and require doctors to provide minors with sex change surgeries without parental consent. …

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) noted the law would end the discrimination “we see in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit jury service, as well as in education,” adding, “no one should be forced to lose his or her job, their home or to live in fear because of who they are and whom they love.”

So if the Senate does vote on the Equality Act, then what happens? I don’t know how the vote would turn out, but former liberal and now arch-conservative President Donald Trump would surely veto it.

What this means is America is not giving the same rights to everyone. That is a shame. It does not matter if there is a right to work or to marry. All Americans should be given the right to work, vote, have free assembly, etc. Our Constitution mandates it.

That was what was decided with Brown v. Board 65 years ago, and we have progressed since then. It should be the law now. It doesn’t matter if someone’s religious beliefs conflict; that could have been argued when the court voted to end segregation in schools, but it did not matter if your religious beliefs did not agree.

Congress should approve the Equality Act and President Trump should sign it, pure and simple.

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