House and Senate Democrats introduced a bill aimed at expanding LGBT civil rights Thursday in the face of an ongoing battle between religious and individual freedoms.
The Equality Act would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964, providing protections across the board to ensure that LGBT individuals are not discriminated against on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation–much like those afforded to other minority groups.
One couple speaking out about their support for the legislation is Krista and Jami Contreras, whose baby daughter was rejected by a pediatrician on the basis of religious belief.
After the couple researched pediatricians and chose a doctor for their baby, they were shocked to arrive for an appointment and learn the doctor they had chosen decided not to see them anymore. “We were humiliated, heartbroken. We were scared,” Krista Contreras said about the experience on Thursday’s Rundown.
The fight Krista and Jami are facing is not an unprecedented one. Earlier this year, “religious freedom” bills were at the heart of the debate over whether businesses could deny services to same-sex couples because of religious beliefs. A recent Small Business Majority poll found that two-thirds of small business owners believe they should not be able to deny goods or services to someone based on their religious beliefs, while 55% of small business owners say they support laws banning discrimination.
Despite a seemingly powerful shift in public opinion in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling, Congress has yet to pass any strong LGBT legislation. The Equality Act is the first move by Democrats for LGBT rights since the historic ruling, although some worry it may not be enough against such strong Republican opposition.
“You have your rights, we should have ours. Even if you want to look at same-sex marriage or being gay as a choice, that’s fine. But religion is also a choice and that’s protected,” Jami said on msnbc Thursday morning. “It’s not trampling on your First Amendment when we’re just living our lives.”