Congressman Pappas calls for passage of the bipartisan Equality Act on House floor
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Chris Pappas, Co-Chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus and the first LGBTQ member of Congress from New Hampshire, took to the House floor to speak on the introduction of the bipartisan Equality Act. This landmark legislation amends existing civil right law to provide LGBTQ Americans with the same protections as other Americans in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations.
Read the full remarks as written for delivery from Congressman Pappas's House floor speech below:
There are times in Washington that go beyond the mundane. Times when you can feel the pull of public sentiment and the weight of history times that aren’t political but are personal. For some of us who serve here and for millions more around the country, this is one of those times.
Yesterday, I was proud to join so many members of this House to introduce the Equality Act.
This bill will ensure full equality under the law for the LGBTQ community, an essential step given that Americans can still be fired or discriminated against in nearly 30 states. We have made marked progress over recent decades, no doubt, but full equality for LGBTQ Americans still lies somewhere over the horizon.
We are not asking for anything more or less than any other American enjoys. We are asking to be treated equally—right now.
I grew up afraid about whether I would be accepted by the world around me and convinced I wouldn’t be able to live a full life. This is, unfortunately, a reality even today for too many LGBTQ Americans.
Too many still live in fear of sharing their truth or telling their stories. Too many contend with injustice because of who they are or who they love.
There is injustice when more than 4 million workers could face the risk of employment discrimination across this country.
There is injustice when more than 2 million students are left without protections against bullying, harassment, and roadblocks on their path to an education.
There is injustice when nearly 7 million Americans could be subject to discrimination in public accommodations.
There is injustice when five and a half million Americans could be denied the equal opportunity to secure housing or credit.
This is heartbreaking, and this is not what America stands for. But we can do something about it.
We can take action to support the values and the constitution of this nation.
We can take action that will protect the safety and well-being of millions and tell everyone—particularly LGBTQ youth—that they can reach their full potential.
We can take action and pass the Equality Act.
The Equality Act will end these injustices and establish equality under the law by enshrining sexual orientation and gender identity language into the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the Jury Selection and Services Act. We must address this at the federal level.
Equality and human dignity are not concepts that can be left up to the states.
Americans who live in Nebraska deserve the same civil rights protections as those living in New Hampshire. The same goes those living in Mississippi and Massachusetts.
The end of discrimination can only begin when we protect our fellow citizens in each and every community across this nation.
Since Stonewall, millions of LGBTQ Americans have come out and told their stories. Many have done so at great personal risk but with a great societal benefit. Coming out and living openly has done more to change hearts, minds, and laws than anything else.
As a result, we now stand on the cusp of history and full equality, with the American people squarely behind us.
As the People’s House considers this bill, I ask my colleagues a simple question: Who deserves to be treated as a second-class citizen just for being who we are?
Which members of this body, which people in your lives, which constituents in your districts deserve to be less than equal?
I hope this House gets it right. Full equality under the law. Nothing less, nothing more. It’s a simple concept. It’s a beautiful concept. It’s an American concept.
Mr. Speaker, for the sake of LGBTQ Americans today and future generations, let’s pass H.R. 5, the Equality Act.
Thank you, I yield back.