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June is Pride month—a time to reflect and celebrate the history and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community. While the parties and parades are a lot of fun, and an important way to connect as a community, Pride is also a moment to push for meaningful change that can make society more equitable for alllike the federal Equality Act, currently working its way through Congress.

What is the Equality Act?

While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity are not codified in the law. The Equality Act hopes to fix that. Without it, LGBTQ+ people will continue to be vulnerable to discrimination in every area of life—from health care and employment to housing and education and more. 

If passed, the Equality Act would strengthen the Civil Rights Act to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex stereotypes, pregnancy, and childbirth. People do not live single issue lives and the Equality Act recognizes that discrimination often hinges on multiple issues. By expanding our civil rights laws to include these additional protections, we would better protect people from discrimination, especially people who live at the intersection of multiple identities.

Equality Illinois, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing equal treatment and full acceptance of the LGBTQ community, also supports this legislation.

“This federal legislation is consistent with our national values of equality, fairness, and the freedom to be who you are without burden or discrimination,” said Myles Brady Davis, Equality Illinois’ Press Secretary and Director of Communications.

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The LGBTQ+ community faces continued discrimination in health care

Many LGBTQ+ people experience high rates of discrimination, especially in health care. In a 2017 survey, nearly 30% of transgender people said a doctor or health care provider refused to treat them due to their gender identity. LGBTQ+ people also experience discrimination while interacting with police, applying for jobs, and seeking housing. And LGBTQ+ people of color report discrimination at twice the rates of their white counterparts. The frequent harm LGBTQ+ people of color must endure are quickly compounded because they face multiple forms of discrimination at the same time.

Len Meyer, Community Engagement Manager at Planned Parenthood of Illinois, has experienced discrimination in health care throughout their life. Meyer, who is transgender and identifies as nonbinary, had to deal with complicated insurance issues to get their gender-affirming surgery approved several years ago.

“Unfortunately, my story is not uncommon,” they said. “When I went through my insurance to get approval for my top surgery, my coverage was denied. For me, the decision to have top surgery was years of anguish—not only making the decision to get it done, but then having to jump through hoops with the insurance company and doctors. It was devastating to consider not having gender-affirming surgery because there was no way I could pay for it out of pocket.” 

Fortunately, as Meyer was battling the system, Illinois updated its laws to require insurance companies to pay for gender-affirming health care.

While Illinois is proud to be a haven state for sexual and reproductive health care, these freedoms don’t extend equally across the United States. 

As Davis from Equality Illinois explained, “In Illinois, we are proud of the inclusive non-discrimination protections in the Illinois Human Rights Act. Yet when LGBTQ Illinoisans travel outside of our state, our rights and equal treatment are subject to the zip code in which we may work or visit. Whether an Illinoisan or a resident of any other state, an LGBTQ person's civil rights should not be hindered because of a zip code or state border.”

The Equality Act would change this.

We need to act now: Urge the Senate to pass the Equality Act

Planned Parenthood of Illinois works every day to offer judgement-free and welcoming health care. We are proud to provide essential health care to LGBTQ+ people, from cervical cancer screenings and STI testing and treatment to birth control and abortion. PPIL also is a leading provider of gender-affirming hormone therapy and health care for transgender and nonbinary patients, especially downstate, where we are often the only provider available.

LGBTQ+ people are Planned Parenthood patients, staff, supporters, and volunteers, all of whom deserve to live full, healthy, and authentic lives free from discrimination or judgement. This Pride month and beyond, we hope you’ll join us in the urgent work necessary to become a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

We are proud to work alongside partners like Equality Illinois, as we strive to build a world where no one faces discrimination because of who they are or who they love. Join us in urging the Senate to pass the Equality Act, so that all people can enjoy their full civil rights—no matter where they live or work.

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Tags: equality, pride, pride month

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