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Legislation & Policy

State Policy Working Group

NCLR, along with other national LGBTQ organizations, is part of a State Policy Working Group that addresses proposed state legislation affecting LGBTQ people across the country. The group works to support local advocates in advancing bills to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, healthcare, and other areas, and to allow transgender and nonbinary people to obtain gender marker changes on identity documents.

The group also works to stop the dozens of hostile anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures every year. Among the proposed laws that have been successfully defeated are bills that would permit discrimination against same-sex couples who marry, create broad religious exemptions to existing civil rights protections, allow religiously-affiliated child welfare agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, prohibit transgender people from using restrooms and other facilities based on their gender identity, and deprive transgender youth of access to gender-affirming medical care and participation in school sports based on their gender identity.


Legislation & Policy

Equality Act

URGENT ACTION: Tell Your Senators to Vote for the Equality Act!

The Equality Act (H.R. 5) would prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, credit, education, public accommodations (things like restaurants, hotels, and theaters), and jury service. It would also prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in programs receiving federal funding. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in the last Congress in May 2019 with a bipartisan vote of 236 to 173 but was blocked from consideration in the Senate by then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The bill was reintroduced by Rep. David Cicilline (RI-1) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) in the 117th Session of the United States Congress on February 18, 2021. A vote is expected in the House shortly, with action following soon after in the Senate.

NCLR has played a leading role in drafting the Equality Act and working for its eventual passage. We have partnered with Black and Pink and others to educate Congress and the public on the Act’s potential to reform the U.S. criminal legal system for LGBTQ people and people of color.

Currently, only 22 states have non-discrimination protections that fully protect LGBTQ individuals. According to the Center for American Progress, more than 1 in 3 LGBTQ Americans have reported facing some form of discrimination within the past year, with the number increasing to 3 in 5 for transgender individuals. This discrimination often causes substantial harm to the psychological and economic wellbeing of the LGBTQ community and creates undue difficulties for many LGBTQ people in accessing medically necessary healthcare – most dramatically for the transgender population and people of color.

The most recent polling from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that more than 80 percent of all Americans (including a majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans) support comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that include LGBTQ individuals. FiveThirtyEight has also similarly found that President Biden’s executive order mandating that federal agencies implement the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County in nondiscrimination policies was the most popular of his early executive actions, with the support of an overwhelming 83% of Americans.

More than 600 national, state, and local organizations have signed on to urge the swift passage of the Equality Act, in addition to a broad coalition of faith-based groups and 335 major corporations, showing the breadth of support the legislation has maintained since its passage in the House in 2019. NCLR is a member of the Freedom and Opportunity for All coalition (along with 16 other partner organizations) advocating for the urgent passage of the Equality Act.


Legislation & Policy


The FAMILY Act would establish a national paid leave insurance program. Specifically, it would provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of partial income to address their own serious health condition, including pregnancy or childbirth; to deal with the serious health condition of a parent, spouse, domestic partner or child; to care for a new child; and/or specific military care-giving and leave purposes.


Legislation & Policy

Raise the Wage Act

The Raise the Wage Act would raise the federal minimum wage in stages over the next six years until it reaches $15. After six years, the minimum wage would be adjusted annually to keep pace with growth in the typical worker’s wages.

An increase in the federal minimum wage would help the LGBTQ community, especially its most marginalized members. The Williams Institute estimates incomes would rise above poverty level for nearly 30,000 people in same-sex relationships. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would decrease poverty by almost 50% among female same-sex couples and by 35% among male same-sex couples. In June 2019, The U.S. House passed the bill. The Senate not has taken action on the bill.


Legislation & Policy

California Senate Bill 703

On October 7, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark bill that protects transgender people who work for companies doing business with state agencies.

Senate Bill 703, authored by California State Senator Mark Leno, prohibits state agencies from entering into a contract in the amount of $100,000 or more with a contractor who discriminates in the provision of benefits based on an employee’s gender identity.

SB 703, which went into effect on January 1, 2016, expands existing enforcement provisions in California contracting law by adding requirements that the Department of General Services provide a web based database listing all contracts subject to this provision, and establish a method for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints of non-compliance.

SB 703 levels the playing field in state contracting between in-state and out-of-state companies while also ensuring that state tax dollars are used in a cost-effective manner and do not go to companies that discriminate.

The bill was co-sponsored by NCLR, Equality California, and the Transgender Law Center.


Legislation & Policy

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act Of 2010

On December 22, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act (Repeal), which allowed for the repeal of the 1994 federal policy that barred LGB people from serving openly in the military. As President Obama remarked during the signing of the bill, “No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country that they love.”

As a result of the 1994 DADT policy, more than 13,500 women and men were discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Of equal importance, of the 619 people discharged under DADT in 2008, 45 percent were people of color (who represent 30 percent of the military), and 34 percent were women (who make up only 14 percent).

In December of 2010, legislation passed both the House and Senate and provided a pathway for the DADT repeal. Two months earlier, a federal judge in the Central District of Columbia held that DADT was unconstitutional.

In the months that followed Congress’ measure, the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified in writing that they had reviewed the Pentagon’s report on the effects of DADT repeal and informed Congress that the Department of Defense had prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement the repeal and those policies and regulations comported with military standards for readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and military recruiting and retention. On September 20, 2011, DADT was officially repealed.

Today, gay and lesbian service members are permitted to openly serve, and those who were previously discharged as a result of DADT, are able to re-enlist.