Savannah’s LGBTQ community “cautiously optimistic” over future of federal Equality Act

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Members of Savannah’s LGBTQ community are hopeful that federal protection from discrimination will soon be the law of the land. Thursday the democratic led U.S. House passed the Equality Act, it now faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

Candace Hardnett says she and her wife struggled with whether they wanted to bring a child into a world where a person could face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. They say they found hope during the Obama presidency. “We made the decision to have a child. It became very scary that right after her birth administrations changed hands and we have seen a bit of backtracking.”

In Savannah, city leaders like Mayor Van Johnson have tried to advocate for the LGBTQ community with ordinances banning discrimination in areas like employment, housing, and education. “We’re simply saying here in Savannah that we are preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sexual identity” said Mayor Johnson during a Zoom interview Friday afternoon.

But the protections Johnson speaks of don’t apply to private businesses and organizations. Hardnett, who serves as Chairperson of Savannah’s LGBTQ Task Force, Proud Savannah, says that’s what makes a federal equality act so important. “When it becomes law, and it will become law eventually, it will expand protections for LGBTQ people beyond what a local government or even a state government can do, because it will be a federal mandate.”

With democrats in control of both the House and Senate, that mandate has a better shot than it has in years, but it’s still not a slam dunk. The Senate needs 60 votes to pass it and avoid a filibuster. With Georgia’s two democratic senators likely to vote in favor of the legislation, Hardnett says it’s time for Georgians to reach out to the rest of the nation.

“We need to contact our friends and family that live in other states and encourage them to write their politicians.”

Many republican lawmakers oppose the Equality Act, saying it would infringe on citizens’ and employers’ right to free speech and religious freedoms.

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