A coalition of 161 major businesses across 50 states have signed on to voice support for federal LGBTQ legislation known as the Equality Act ahead of its anticipated re-introduction in the House of Representatives next week.
The Human Rights Campaign unveiled the list of businesses, which includes major corporations ranging from Coca-Cola to Yelp, JP Morgan Chase & Co., American Airlines, and more, as part of HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act.
The measure would expand nondiscrimination protections in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and related anti-bias legislation to protect folks on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“By standing with the LGBTQ community and joining the fight to pass the Equality Act, these companies are demanding full federal equality for the more than 11 million LGBTQ people in this country who deserve to earn a living, raise their families, and live their lives free from discrimination,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a written statement.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on March 7, said that the bill, introduced in the 2017-18 session of Congress by out gay Rhode Island Democratic Congressmember David Cicilline, would be proposed again within the next week. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon has introduced the Equality Act in the upper chamber in the previous two sessions of Congress, but as in the House it did not get out of committee. Plans for reintroducing the measure have only been announced, to date, for the House.
This time around, of course, the Equality Act faces far brighter prospects in the House, given the Democrats’ recapture of the chamber in last year’s midterm elections. The bill continues to face bleak odds in the Republican-controlled Senate, but momentum in the House could result in increased awareness about the lack of federal protections for the community, something many Americans believe already exist. That, in turn, could put pressure on GOP senators to explain their resistance to an idea that has broad public support.
On the day that the Equality Act was first introduced in 2015, HRC had lined up only three companies — Apple Inc., the Dow Chemical Company, and Levi Strauss & Co. — willing to endorse the specifics of the measure.
Some companies included on the new list have taken a more direct approach toward advocating for the legislation than simply signing on to HRC’s coalition. On March 7, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty wrote a letter to Cicilline and Merkley underscoring the importance of the measure.
“Most American companies long ago included sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination polices,” Rometty wrote. “It is time for the federal government to do the same.”
The 161 businesses current in the coalition, which employ more than 8.5 million people combined, generate more than $3.7 trillion in revenue, according to HRC.