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NBJC Statement on Equality Act Vote

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. In response to the news and Trump’s reported opposition to the Equality Act, David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), released the following statement:

“Every day, members of the Black community face discrimination as a result of who we are and how we show up in the world. There is much more work to do to ensure that each of us are spared from discrimination and spared from attacks on our constitutional rights and the passage of the Equality Act is a critical step in the right direction.

“Our community has been on the frontlines of the work that led to the passage of extensive civil and human rights protections in the 60s, yet our work today is far from complete. In spite of existing federal protections against discrimination and bias, Black people are still denied access to public accommodations and services; fired from jobs or denied promotions because of our natural hair; experience housing discrimination when seeking rentals, home ownership and financing; and blocked from jury service. All of this contributes to negative social and economic outcomes for Black people, our communities and the country at large. Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (SGL) people are impacted even more when we are not protected by federal legislation from discrimination while on the job or seeking to access public accommodations.

“To this end, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), stands proudly, in coalition with advocates for racial equality and LGBTQ/SGL equality to support the passage of H.R.5, the Equality Act.  These critical civil protections, along with the preservation of existing civil rights laws are paramount to our collective efforts to ensure that every member of the Black community is safe and supported in participating fully in democracy.  Today we celebrate forward movement, we also understand our work continues.

“While the Equality Act provides for protections in public spaces is it especially important that we ensure public schools are safe and supportive environments for students from, what we continue to call, racial/ethnic minority communities, in spite of the reality that students from racial/ethnic “minority” communities are among the majority of students attending public schools throughout the country as well as for students from sexual minority communities.

“In addition to expressing our support for the passage of H.R.5, and in light of the recent establishment of the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth, mental health and suicide (established under the leadership of Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-NJ) we also write to ask for your support of H.R.1192 the Student and Teacher Safety Act of 2019.  This critical legislation approves the use of funds to make schools safer for students and teachers. Data suggests that LGBTQ/SGL youth experience violence and bullying nearly twice as much as children who are or are presumed to be heterosexual.  According to GLSEN, 74 percent of LGBTQ/SGL students report feeling unsafe, bullied, and harassed in schools throughout the country.  LGBTQ/SGL students are five times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers (Rodgers, UCLA, 2017).  Under the Student and Teacher Safety Act, each local education agency may use funds for school safety infrastructure improvements to prevent, mitigate or respond to incidents of violence.  This bill will ensure that all of our babies are safe in schools where they can learn and grow cognitively, socially, and emotionally.

“These bills, the Equality Act and the Student and Teacher Safety Act, are needed especially now when the Trump Administration promotes anti-LGBT discrimination and research affirms increases in tension and anxieties in both schools and communities throughout the country. And as we celebrate the passage of the Equality Act in the House we call upon the leaders elected to serve in the Senate to vote in support of these bills.”