On Feb. 25, Downtown Alder Eli Sabin ’22 introduced a resolution to the Board of Alders Health and Human Services Committee that would declare the Elm City’s support for the federal Equality Act, a sweeping piece of legislation seeking to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
That same day, the House of Representatives voted 224-206 to pass the Equality Act, mostly along party lines. The legislation last passed the House during a previous session in 2019, but it never reached the Senate floor. The act would amend existing civil rights legislation, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to acknowledge LGBTQ individuals and ensure protections in areas of housing, employment and federally funded programs, among others.
In Connecticut, 13 municipalities have already passed local resolutions in support of the Equality Act. If approved by the Board of Alders and signed by Mayor Justin Elicker, New Haven could become the next municipality in the Nutmeg State to do so. The board will vote on the resolution on March 15.
“In Connecticut, we’ve moved in the right direction more recently, but we should always be aware that the rights that we’ve won for the folks in our community are not guaranteed forever,” Sabin told the News. “We need to be vigilant.”
John Board, chairperson for New Britain Pride, has spearheaded the grassroots support for numerous local resolutions across Connecticut. He said he is hoping all 169 state municipalities will pass similar resolutions, but that the current support is encouraging.
In Washington, D.C., three Republican representatives voted in favor of the bill. On a statewide level, the towns and cities signing on in Connecticut have included both large cities like Hartford and rural, conservative-leaning towns like Roxbury.
“To have such bipartisan and broad support for this at a local level sends a message to not only Congress but to the president and vice president — that here in Connecticut, we support the Equality Act,” Board said. “A lot of change happens on a municipal level.”
After passing through the House, the Equality Act will now be brought to the Senate floor.
Both Board and Sabin noted that local support can be used in debates by members of Congress who represent Connecticut — “They can say, ‘Look, there is genuine, local support for this,’” Board said. Sabin said passing the resolution also sends a strong message to New Haven residents.
“New Haven is quite a progressive community — generally we do a pretty good job on this issue, but we always are aware of how we can do better,” Sabin told the News. “This is an important opportunity for us to make a statement. It’s important for our residents to understand that their local government is on their side and making sure that they have the human rights they deserve.”
The New Haven resolution references various moments in history, including the 1969 Stonewall Riots and the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage as earlier victories in the LGBTQ civil rights movement. It resolves that the Board of Alders “recognizes that LGBTQ rights are human rights and are constitutionally protected; recognizes that all residents should be treated fairly and equally regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity; agrees that New Haven must strive to ensure that the promise of equality is realized for all.”
Each of Connecticut’s five representatives, including New Haven Rep. Rosa DeLauro, voted in favor of the act on Thursday. In a statement to the press, Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Waterbury, expressed support for the bill’s passage.
“I voted for this bill to further the central purpose of my work here in Congress — that everyone should have equitable access to opportunity — including in housing, education, employment and all aspects of public life,” Hayes said. “The passage of this bill represents our continued commitment to ensuring all Americans are treated with dignity, respect and the full protections of the law.”
The Equality Act will need 10 Republican votes in the Senate to pass. It has already received enthusiastic support from President Joe Biden, who listed it in his legislative priorities for his first 100 days.
The first version of the Equality Act was drafted in 1974.
Owen Tucker-Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org