The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s volunteer mobilization team Resistance Squad has joined local, state, and national LGBT and social justice organizations in urging Congress to finally pass the Equality Act.
The volunteers participated in an initial phone banking effort — all done remotely from home – on February 21 targeting Republican senators in Maine and Pennsylvania.
Some version of the Equality Act has been put forth in Congress every year since the 1970s, but this year is seen as its best chance at becoming law by adding sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“This is a landmark federal bill that protects us in any state in the country and will be quite a legacy for ourselves, for our friends and community, for our families, for all the people whom we love,” explains Maria Melo, the Center’s policy and operations manager. “Current federal laws are not enough. They don’t protect a lesbian couple trying to check into a hotel or being denied services in more than 29 states. They don’t protect the trans person who goes to the wrong health services provider.”
What Equality Act Will Do For You
The Equality Act will provide national, consistent non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, including for employment, housing, credit, education, federally funded programs, public spaces, and jury service.
The latest bill already has the support it needs in the U.S. House of Representatives, and public opinion is on its side. A recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 68% of Americans support non-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people.
“To get this bill passed, we need 60 votes in the Senate,” Melo points out. “We need 10 Republican votes, and we believe we can do this.”
That’s where the phone banking comes in.
During the first three-hour shift last weekend, Resistance Squad members got 26 people to agree to be transferred on the spot to a Republican senator’s office to urge the lawmaker to support the bill. Another 18 people agreed to make the calls at a later time, and approximately 600 people were left voicemails instructing them on how to contact their senator.
“Most people outside the LGBTQ community are kind of shocked when we tell them that these anti-discrimination protections don’t exist already and that it’s still legal to discriminate in this way,” says Jessica Parral, policy advocate and community organizer at the Center.
How You Can Help
The next phone banks will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 28, and Sunday, March 7.
“We would love to have more folks on the phone next time. It’s super convenient,” Parral says. “People do it from the comfort of their own homes, and it’s all on Zoom. We use training videos, and we use breakout rooms on Zoom so folks can practice the script with each other.” (Sign up at lalgbtcenter.org/phone)
During the phone banks, Center staff members remain on Zoom the entire time, muted, in case any issues arise and they need to be of assistance to the volunteers.
For its Equality Act push, the Center has partnered with National Equality Action Team (NEAT) which provided the 1,700 phone numbers for the first phone bank. NEAT is a national coalition of more than 30 LGBT organizations that builds collaborative actions and partnerships so anyone can fight for LGBTQ justice from anywhere.
The Center’s Resistance Squad had recently burned up the phone lines to register LGBTQ voters in Georgia and make sure they participated in their state’s two Senate run-off races that ultimately saw Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff elected over Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively.
To join Resistance Squad, the Center’s volunteer mobilization team, in urging Congress to make history and pass the Equality Act, sign up at lalgbtcenter.org/resist