LGBTQ Struggle for Equality and Health Equity Continues

by Joyce Bolinger
Senior Forum JUL-AUG 2019


The struggle for LGBTQ rights continues. The fight for Equality turns to the US Senate as the campaign to introduce the Equality Act moves there.

In May, the US House of Representatives voted 236-173 to pass the historic legislation to ensure protections against discrimination for LGBTQ+ people.

Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hailed the passage of the Equality Act, the first time a chamber of Congress has approved a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill.

Steve Kilar, Communications Director, ACLU Arizona says ”It’s thrilling that the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Equality Act by such a huge margin, marking the first time that a chamber of Congress has advanced legislation providing for nationwide, explicit, and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. This huge step forward is especially important for people living in states, like Arizona, that still do not have laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment, or public accommodations, like restaurants. We all need to push Senators Sinema and McSally to become champions of this bill. If they don’t, we all need to remember that the next time they’re on the ballot. LGBTQ Arizonans encounter discrimination every day and we need this legislation to make sure their rights are fully protected.”

The crucially important, bipartisan legislation will finally provide clear, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the country in employment, housing, public spaces, education, jury services, credit and federal funding.

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act. In addition to transgender inclusion, the bill seeks to update federal law to include sex in the list of protected classes in public accommodation and expands the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, transportation services and health care services. Further, the Equality Act would establish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a 1994 law aimed at protecting religious liberty — can’t be used to enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

Health Equity

However, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a final version of a regulation that would allow medical providers to cite their personal beliefs in refusing to provide a broad spectrum of services — including lifesaving care for LGBTQ patients.

“The Trump-Pence administration’s latest attack threatens LGBTQ people by permitting medical providers to deny critical care based on personal beliefs The administration’s decision puts LGBTQ people at greater risk of being denied necessary and appropriate health care solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone deserves access to medically necessary care and should never be turned away because of who they are or who they love.” – HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy

This regulation will deter health care organizations and providers from taking necessary action to guarantee that all patients have access to the care they not only deserve but also are entitled to legally. The rule is especially dangerous for those already facing barriers to care, particularly LGBTQ patients, patients of color and those who are struggling to make ends meet.

This report from 2010 still gives a good outline of the issues: LGBT Older Adults and Health Disparities (SAGE, Movement Advancement Project, Center for American Progress)