Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal advocate for the Senate passage of the Equality Act in visit to West Hartford on Friday.
By Bridget Bronsdon
Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, along with West Hartford and other local advocates, took a stand on the West Hartford Pride Stage Friday morning to make their own stand – to urge passage of the Equality Act, legislation that would ban discrimination against LGBTQ+ Americans.
“Connecticut has led the way over the course of decades making sure that everyone has a home here,” Sen. Chris Murphy said as he kicked off the press conference. “West Hartford is a shining star. This is a diverse community in every way imaginable, it’s a place where everyone is welcome, where we celebrate everyone, every family, and everything that West Hartford’s diversity brings.”
However, the senator was quick to note that the rest of the country isn’t making nearly as many strides for the LGBTQ+ community.
While Connecticut has “led the way over the course of decades,” he said, there is a “dizzying, coordinated campaign of hate and discrimination that is being launched against gay and transgender people all over this country.” From a nationwide lens, there are ongoing discriminatory presidential campaigns being launched on the premise of marginalization of LGBTQ+ individuals. There have also been hundreds of pieces of legislation that have been introduced just this year aimed at discriminating and marginalizing the LGBTQ+ community, Murphy said.
In response, Murphy remarked, “We have been fighting in Congress for the Equality Act for decades but this is a moment where we have to be both on offense but also on defense.” While the senator recognized the progress that Connecticut has already made, it is critical to combat the hateful and discriminatory works of dozens of states across the nation “designed to disenfranchise, dispossess and marginalized LGBTQ+ individuals.”
The most unacceptable part? Anti-LGBT laws that are targeting children, he said. “It is shameful knowing the epidemic rates of suicide and suicidal ideation amongst kids who are identifying as LGBTQ or nonbinary” and that adults continue to attack, the senator said.
While coordinated nationwide efforts are required in order to pass this act into law, Murphy brought this issue into local contexts.
“While Connecticut protects the workplace and educational rights of LGBTQ individuals, there are a lot of individuals in Connecticut who are working remotely, who are working for big, national companies that are located in other states whose rights are compromised,” Murphy continued, “We can’t fully protect every single Connecticut citizen’s rights without the Equality Act to make sure whatever company you work for, wherever your child goes to school outside of this state, they are going to be protected, that they can’t have their job terminated or their educational rights curtailed just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
As Murphy wrapped up his statement, he made sure to applaud the strides Connecticut has made to lead in these efforts, but also the efforts made to push back against other states headed in different directions.
“No one should be denied anything because of who they are who they love,” Sen. Blumenthal said, echoed similar sentiments of those Murphy expressed before him.
Speaking a year to the date after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, Blumenthal said it’s clear that the nation can no longer depend on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold constitutional rights of all.
The U.S. is in a national state of emergency for the LGBTQ+ community amid the escalating violence, and state laws that are denying LGBTQ+ individuals “fundamental liberty that are the pillars of our constitution,” Blumenthal said.
“That is an onslaught, an outright attack on people,” Blumenthal emphasized. “I salute our state legislature, our governor, for taking the lead, but now we need to move forward at the national level.”
The Equality Act, according to Congress.gov, specifically “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. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.”
Passage would enshrine protections for LGBTQ+ Americans into federal law just as religious, racial, and ethnic discrimination are illegal everywhere in the United States.
While the Equality Act passed the House of Representatives in 2021, there are more than 50 senators in favor of it in the Senate, and a majority of the American people in support of the Act, both Blumenthal and Murphy said, but there aren’t the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.
When asked about the timeline of a possible vote on the Equality Act, Blumenthal said, “I’m hoping we’ll do it before the end of the year,” however, it cannot be said exactly when.
While timelines and voting dates remain uncertain, Mel Cordner, founder and executive director of Q Plus, explained why this legislation is so crucial. “I work with queer students around the state. Kids are dying.” Cornder stated.
As the advocate explained a number of statistics regarding discriminatory legislation, they explained the role of this protective legislature in the public sphere. “This isn’t just about not being able to live in a certain apartment, this is also about them not wanting us to live in the public at all. That’s the real problem here,” Cordner said.
Even though Connecticut is making efforts in the right direction, Cordner emphasized “It’s time” for passage of this legislation.
“Pride is both a celebration and a demand for our rights, our dignity, and real protections,” said Beverly Brakeman of Equality CT.
“I hope that Sen. Blumenthal is right,” said Brakeman of the passage of the Equality Act. Her co-parent, who painted the Pride mural on Isham Road, directly behind the stage on which the speakers were standing on Friday, is in the process of transitioning, she said.
“I’ve always been an advocate for these rights, but when it gets personal, it’s enraging,” she said.
Other community advocates in attendance include Johanna Schubert and Barry Walters, co-chairs of West Hartford Pride, Mayor Shari Cantor, Town Council member Tiffani McGinnis, and West Hartford Human Rights Commission Co-Chair Dawn Ennis.
Although passage of the Equality Act requires nationwide effort, Cantor remarked that West Hartford is a place where everyone is welcome.
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