Leaders Unite for New Equality Act Campaign

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday March 24, 2021

Leaders Unite for New Equality Act Campaign
  (Source:Getty Images)

The new national campaign Freedom & Opportunity For All launches this week, harnessing the power from leaders in business, civil rights, faith communities, education, healthcare, and advocacy to advocate for the Equality Act's urgent passage.

Historic federal legislation, the Equality Act would update civil rights laws with expanded and explicitly codified protections for the LGBTQ community, women, people of color, and people of all faiths. Last month, the House passed the Equality Act with the support of all Democrats and only three Republicans. The Act had its first hearing in the Senate last week.

Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal, said the organization is "proud to stand with advocates for LGBTQ people, people of color, women, and immigrants as a part of the Freedom & Opportunity For All coalition to make the Equality Act a reality."

On the persistent and pervasive discrimination LGBTQ people face every day, Jennings believes "Congress needs to close the many civil rights gaps that have left so many of our community members vulnerable, unprotected, and too often defenseless against injustice in virtually every aspect of public life. We deserve dignity and the same rights and protections as everyone else. There has never been an opportunity like the one now to finally get this done."

Freedom & Opportunity For All launched with an initial investment of $4 million and is projected to rapidly grow as hundreds of supporting organizations across the country join the campaign's efforts. The campaign states its goal is to educate constituents, regardless of political affiliation, why the Equality Act is urgently needed and then to engage and mobilize supporters in reaching out to lawmakers. Legislative advocacy and lobbying, building and implementing national advertising campaigns, and executing traditional communications tactics and social media campaigns will help the campaign achieve this goal.

Co-founded and led by some of the nation's leading advocates for equality, Freedom & Opportunity For All aims to reflect the Equality Act's broad and overwhelming support in communities throughout the country. The campaign's launch follows a new poll from Hart Research Associates that finds 70 percent of Americans (including 50 percent of Republicans) support the Equality Act. Another new poll from Public Religion Research Institute finds majority support among Republicans, Independents and Democrats for nondiscrimination policies protecting the LGBTQ community.

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the passing the Equality Act "would mean that transgender people could worry less about disrespect, discrimination, and even violence, and we could live our lives as more full members of society. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Transgender people, like all people, should be able to count on protection from discrimination no matter what state they call home. It is long past time for Congress to get this done."

Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, believes passing the Equality Act is necessary for the wellbeing of LGBTQ youth. Paley said, "When LGBTQ young people are excluded or treated differently solely because of who they are, it can negatively impact their mental health and sense of self. According to The Trevor Project's research, LGBTQ youth who experienced discrimination in the past year attempted suicide at more than twice the rate of those who did not. It is long past time to grant LGBTQ people the same legal protections as everyone else."

The Equality Act has received widespread support, with seven in 10 Americans in favor of its passage.

Over 60 business associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers — have endorsed the Equality Act and nearly 400 major U.S. companies

Co-founders of the Freedom & Opportunity For All campaign include the Center for American Progress, Equality Federation, Freedom for All Americans, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, GLSEN, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, National Black Justice Coalition, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Women's Law Center, PFLAG National, SAGE, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and The Trevor Project. 

The complete list of organizations supporting the Equality Act can be found here.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.