By STEPHANIE SANTOSTASI, WLOS
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (CIRCA via WLOS) — Eyes are on Washington after the introduction of the Equality Act.
It would update the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include federal protections for members of the LGBTQ community.
If passed, it would also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, credit, education, public accommodations, federally funded programs and jury service.
"It would be historic, far reaching, and it would mean that LGBTQ people in states like North Carolina would finally achieve the threshold of basic legal equality," said Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.
Beach-Ferrara said the Equality Act would raise the level of protection for people in every southern state.
"In North Carolina, LGBTQ people remain second-class citizens," she added.
But that doesn't stop them from fighting for what they believe is right.
"What keeps us so hopeful and what motivates us is that we know in the reality of people's lives, support is just continuing to grow for LGBTQ folks, and that's because more people are coming out, more people know a family member, a friend, a coworker, and more people understand that these laws are not just discriminatory, but they're antiquated," said Beach-Ferrara.
The Equality Act was first introduced in 1974 but has never been voted on by the full House or Senate.
Twenty-one states have laws protecting members of the LGBTQ community, but there is no uniform federal law to make such discrimination illegal.
It's something Beach-Ferrara hopes will change soon.
"We're relentlessly hopeful," she said. "It's why we show up every day to have new conversations about these issues, and we also see lots of reason for hope as we travel around the state in terms of new people being willing to raise their voice on these issues."
According to recent polling, 66 percent of people in North Carolina say they support protections like this.
Tennessee bill would charge transgender people with indecent exposure if they use the 'wrong' restroom
This is how the Supreme Court's decision on transgender military ban could affect troops, veterans
Hate message found on Central Michigan campus targets LGBTQ student