“It wasn’t long ago that a person could be prosecuted for being gay. It wasn’t long ago that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the law of the land and it wasn’t long ago that states were permitted to deny LGBTQ couples the right to marry. We have made great progress, miles of progress, but we still have miles to go as this hearing has pointed out.”
WASHINGTON – At today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) highlighted the need to pass the Equality Act to expand federal civil rights protections for LGBTQ Americans. Klobuchar stressed that Minnesota has long protected LGBTQ people from discrimination and that the state has “one of the most thriving economies” in part because of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. She also emphasized the Business Coalition for the Equality Act’s strong support for the legislation, with 388 leading U.S. employers collaborating to push for its passage. In response, Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, noted, “Our largest businesses understand that diversity, inclusion, and fairness actually affect the bottom line. They understand that for their employees to thrive, they need to be protected.”
Senator Klobuchar: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you to our witnesses. It wasn’t long ago that a person could be prosecuted for being gay. It wasn’t long ago that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was the law of the land and it wasn’t long ago that states were permitted to deny LGBTQ couples the right to marry. We have made great progress, miles of progress, but we still have miles to go as this hearing has pointed out. My first question is of you, Mr. David. I first want to thank you for mentioning Minnesota’s Civil Rights Act. We’ve been ahead of the curve when it came to these issues for a long, long time and I think it’s been a good thing because we’ve been able to – have been able to have one of the most thriving economies in terms of recruiting people to work at companies. We have one of the highest per-capita numbers for fortune 500 companies and I think it’s been incredibly – a good thing that we have so many citizens in our state and I was listening to some of the other questions, specifically Senator Cotton’s question, so many people of faith that support equality under the law. So I just want to ask you a series of questions, Mr. David. Are there still places in the United States where LGBTQ person can be denied a home simply because of who they are?
Mr. David: Yes.
Senator Klobuchar: Are there still places where an LGBTQ person can be denied a loan simply of who they are?
Mr. David: Yes, there are. There are areas where there are no state laws that would protect LGBTQ people.
Senator Klobuchar: And are there still places in the U.S. where an LGBTQ person can be denied access to health care because of who they are?
Mr. David: Yes. There are areas where there is no state law that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in health care.
Senator Klobuchar: And how have gaps in federal protections contributed to systemic inequalities experienced by members of the community?
Mr. David: So we have areas that are not protected by federal law. For example, jury service. If I, as a gay man, tried to serve on the jury, I could be dismissed from the jury because of my sexual orientation and I would have no protections under federal law. The same if I were to get into a transportation hub, an Uber or a Lyft, and travel in a state that does not have protections. I would have no recourse if I was thrown out of that taxi. If I was thrown out of that car, I would have no recourse. If I went into a store to purchase a new pair of jeans or a new shirt, and I faced discrimination as an LGBTQ person, I would have no recourse under federal law. These instances unfortunately are real for LGBTQ people. Two-thirds of LGBTQ people face discrimination in this country.
Senator Klobuchar: Yeah. You know the business coalition for the Equality Act is a group of 388 leading U.S. employers which includes companies like 3M and General Mills – I thought I’d lead with hometown companies – as well as Delta, Nike, and Target, another Minnesota company. The coalition has a combined $6.4 trillion in reverence and employs over 13.5 million people in the United States. What is driving this level of support among our largest businesses?
Mr. David: Our largest businesses understand that diversity, inclusion, and fairness actually affect the bottom line. They understand that for their employees to thrive, they need to be protected. How can your employees actually thrive when they worry about walking home at night because they don’t have protections under state law? How can your employees thrive when they may not have the protections to get the resources and the services they need? Those employers understand that diversity, inclusion, and fairness, and equality actually affects the bottom line and if they have those protections if those employees are able to live freely and be who they are, they can thrive and that benefits the bottom line for all of those companies.
Senator Klobuchar: Last question. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the LGT-- LBG-- LGBTQ community especially LGBTQ people of color. While LGBTQ people overall are thirty percent more likely to have lost their jobs since the pandemic started, Black and Latino people who identify as LGBTQ are seventy percent more likely to have lost their jobs. Why is this and could you just-- end by speaking to the impact on the community and how the Equality Act could help mitigate these problems?
Mr. David: Absolutely. So we have all been affected by COVID-19, all of us. Some of us have lost loved ones, others have gotten ill, or we know family members who have gotten ill. But there is also a second reality. That is an economic reality that some of us have lost our jobs, some of us have taken two jobs in order to protect our families because of reduced wages, and if you are LGBTQ and you’re a person of color, COVID-19 hits you disproportionately high and if you happen to be a transgender person, your unemployment rate is almost three times that of the general population so as we think about the Equality Act and why it’s important, we need to make sure that all of us have an equal opportunity to contribute and thrive and without these protections, what we’re seeing now is, unfortunately, going to get worse because LGTBQ people and people of color, as we all know, face the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Klobuchar: Very good. Thank you very much and thanks to all the witnesses. I will ask a few questions on the record. Thank you.
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