Feature: Speak OUT - August 5, 2015

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What are your thoughts on the 2015 Equality Act? SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders.

Below are some of their answers:

The bill is long overdue but as Senator Merkley said, it's not enough or written/submitted in the best way possible. Lets get this done the right way

— R. J. Hadley, community activist, Pride Center Health Educator

Discrimination against the LGBT community continues to persist despite tremendous recent legal advances. Legislation like the Equality Act of 2015 seek to broadly expand anti discrimination protections across numerous areas. The Act will likely face tremendous opposition but it is still critically important to pursue these rights as the dialogue and debate foster education and progress.

— George Castrataro, noted attorney and LGBT activist

Congress must finally pass comprehensive legislation protecting LGBT Americans from discrimination. It doesn’t matter whether this is accomplished by enacting new legislation dealing specifically with the LGBT community or by amending existing civil rights legislation. It needs to be done now.

— Ken Keechl, noted trial attorney and LGBT rights activist

Most Americans are unaware that LGBT people can be discriminated against in jobs and housing in the majority of states. As was true with marriage equality, we need to win a cultural war, in addition to hoping for a legal remedy, by putting a face on the issues. We must tell our stories.

— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist

As we work to mobilize support in Washington, it is critical that we not only address discrimination in employment, but also in housing, public accommodations, credit, education, etc. Therefore, the Equality Act of 2015 is the appropriate vehicle to achieve our goals. I am proud that all four members of Congress representing Palm Beach County (Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings and Patric Murphy) signed on as original co-sponsors to the bill."

With the hostile leadership in both houses of Congress, and the inability for the two parties to work together to enact and substantive legislation, I do not expect the bill to make much progress in the current Congress. It is extremely unfortunate that not a single Republican has signed on as a c-sponsor to the Equity Act. Therefore, it is critical that across the nation. LGBT people and allies register and vote in the 2016 elections. And although the Log Cabin Republicans and others may disagree, I believe we should use a Congressional candidate's willingness to cosponsor the Equity Act as a litmus test for our support."

In this day an age, I find it hard to believe that any LGBT rights advocacy group would object to amending our civil rights laws to specifically include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." The fears that have been expressed about opening up the Civil Rights Act to amendments are unfounded. We do not control the agenda in Congress right now, and there is a growing movement to address further protecting religious individuals from perceived discrimination anyway. Unfortunately, the current leadership may be more likely to move forward with that than they are with protecting LGBT people from actual discrimination.

— Rand Hoch, President and Founder, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council

Why do we need comprehensive legislation that ensures Full Federal Equality for LGBT Americans? The Equality Act, as it is called, would guarantee explicit, permanent protections for LGBT people in many of the most important aspects of our lives banning discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity in matters of employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service. With more than 140 cosponsors in the House and at least 39 in the Senate, and the support of major corporations including Apple Inc., The Dow Chemical Company, and Levi Strauss & Co., this is the moment to pass landmark legislation that would finally ensure all LGBT Americans have the protections from discrimination we deserve.

— Michael C. Gongora, former Vice Mayor of Miami Beach

Visit SFGN.com/SpeakOut to see all of this week’s responses. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you know of a LGBT community leader that you believe should be a part of this list.


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