The Equality Act and Reproductive Rights
In the wake of the recent U.S. election, there have been a number of changes at the national legislative level, both big and small. While certain bills, such as the COVID relief package, have gained the most media attention, there have also been several other important initiatives that will profoundly affect how Americans live in the next decade and beyond. One of them is the Equality Act, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on February 25. While it does not directly address reproductive rights, the act could have major ramifications for the rights of the LGBTQA+ community to build families.
A little bit of history: the Supreme Court has already interpreted title VII of the Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but those rights have never been expressly spelled out in federal legislation. The Equality Act seeks to codify the rights of the LGBTQA+ community in everything from job discrimination to housing to access to schools. Advocates hope that the legislation will pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Biden this year. It is not an overstatement to call this a watershed moment for communities that have traditionally been subject to victimization and restrictions at the local, state, and federal levels.
So, what does this have to do with reproductive rights? The answer is quite a lot. For starters, the rights of same-sex couples to become parents are not ironclad. There are still obstacles to adoption, and there have been many efforts by conservative activists and state legislatures to restrict the rights of LGBTQA+ individuals when it comes to surrogacy, custody, and parental rights. If it passes, the Equality Act will codify these rights at the federal level and prevent states from enacting restrictions that violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
One of the byproducts of this act will be the right of same-sex couples to access fertility treatments, including IVF and IUI, enabling them to have children. In fact, companies that provide health benefits to their employees may well be required to offer these services as part of their benefits packages. That would be a massive change from current policies, which makes these optional, rather than mandatory, benefits.
Forward-thinking companies are not waiting for federal legislation to make reproductive medical services available to all their employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. A number of top employers, including many Silicon Valley giants, are already including reproductive medicine in their standard benefits package. Not surprisingly, many of these companies have become destinations of choice for LGBTQA+ employees who want to work for organizations that treat them with dignity and equality. For any company that wants to meet — or exceed — their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals, offering reproductive medical services is a great way to become the choice employer for everyone.