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Mark Pocan

Rep. Mark Pocan, shown here speaking March 24 during the March for our Lives protest in Madison, is one of 197 co-sponsors of a bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination. PHOTO BY BEN BREWER

Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to permit discrimination against lesbians and gays was a setback for the cause of human rights. But Congressman Mark Pocan, D-town of Vermont, is not about to let the high-court majority have the final say.

The court ruled 7-2 in favor of a Colorado baker who demanded a religious exemption from laws that bar discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. That decision did not upend existing gay rights laws, but it sent a signal about how much work remains to be done to address prejudice.

As Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, explained: “Our nation decided more than 50 years ago that businesses should be open to all, and today this ruling, while narrow, chips away at our right to equity and our value of being a society where no one should be rejected for being black, brown, low-income, a woman, or a member of the LGBTQ community.”

Pocan said the court’s ruling “shows just how much work we have left to do when it comes to equality.”

To that end, the congressman argued: “Congress must immediately pass the Equality Act and ensure that every American has full and equal rights.”

Along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Georgia Congressman John Lewis and Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Pocan is one of 197 co-sponsors of the measure, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation in places of public accommodation.

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“Just as businesses can’t refuse service based on race, religion, or gender,” said Pocan, “they should be held to the same standard when it comes to sexual orientation." 

— John Nichols

Associate Editor of the Cap Times