After the Altar

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by Katy Steinmetz,

from TIME Magazine,

The next frontier for lgbt rights is equal treatment at home, work and in the public square.

The battle over LGBT rights has moved from the chapel to the office. On Dec. 10, Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, announced plans to turbo-charge the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a federal bill that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from workplace discrimination. A version of that legislation has failed to pass in almost every Congress since 1994. Rather than trying again in 2015, Merkley will introduce a bill that covers not only employment but also housing and public accommodations. “It can’t be right that people are thrown out of their rental housing because of their LGBT status,” Merkley says.

Polls have shown that most Americans believe it’s already illegal to fire someone–or refuse to serve them or turn them down as renters–because of their sexual orientation. But it’s not, at least not under any explicit federal law.

Merkley’s bill is unlikely to go anywhere in the GOP-controlled Senate, where critics have argued that such a measure could impinge on religious freedom. But the fight will also be waged in statehouses in places like Florida and Utah. In Virginia, delegate Marcus Simon is testing landlords’ treatment of ostensibly gay and straight people inquiring about the same rental property, to rebut opponents of a housing-protection bill. “I want to make it difficult for them to hide behind that argument that this kind of discrimination doesn’t exist,” he says.

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