Questions and Answers about the Proposed Federal 'Equality Act'

Questions and Answers about the Proposed Federal ’Equality Act’

What is the “Equality Act?”

The so-called “Equality Act” (“EA”) is a bill introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate on July 23, 2015 which would give special protections to persons who identify as homosexual or transgender by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories under federal civil rights laws.

The principal sponsor of the House bill (H.R. 3185) is Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI); the principal sponsor of the Senate bill (S. 1858) is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Is the EA the same as the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act”?

No. H.R. 3185/S. 1858 is a successor to the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” (ENDA)—but it is far more sweeping in scope. ENDA,[i] which had been introduced in every Congress but one since 1994, has not been introduced in the current (114th) Congress.

What is the difference between ENDA and the EA?

One difference is that ENDA was a stand-alone bill creating one new law. The EA, on the other hand, would amend a whole series of already existing federal laws to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories within them. It would make 59 substantive amendments to the following federal laws:

The other key difference is that ENDA would have applied to employment only. The EA, in addition to both public and government employment, would be applied to a large number of different areas of life and the law, including:

  • Public accommodations
  • Public facilities
  • Public education
  • Federal grants and loans
  • Sale or rental of housing
  • Other real estate transactions
  • Real estate brokerage services
  • Collection of housing statistics
  • Credit transactions
  • Jury service

Various provisions of the EA would be enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or the courts, and it is difficult to know exactly how every provision of the bill would be applied in every situation. This paper describes some of the specific provisions of the bill and what Family Research Council believes would be the most likely applications of it.


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