May 10, 2021

Why Equality Act Matters to Me - Irene Criss

In 2003 I left my American homeland, my job, roots, family and language. This 

decision was not taken lightly. I was a good citizen and a productive member of society, but I was being denied my bill of rights.

In 2002, my now wife, Catherine, was offered a teaching position at an American University and asked to provide a green card. The green card’s key elements included employment (check that box!) and health coverage and shelter (check – sorta). Through my job I had health insurance with spousal benefits, but only for a spouse. Marriage was not a legal option for us. Additionally, in the wake of 9/11, Homeland Security said Catherine could only remain in the US for a maximum of three months, leave for six months, and then begin the cycle again.

Not much of an option in pursuit of my inalienable rights.

Our last resort was to leave America and relocate to France. It’s hard to believe same-sex marriage is now almost a non-event in America in and many parts of the world.

Looking across the sea towards America, I try to understand the opposition to the Equality Act 2021. I read that opponents believe the Act is harmful to women and privileges gender identity implying that “real” females would suffer the consequences. Seemingly, the Equality Act also “applies a wrecking ball to female sports and access to college scholarships” and that women would be forced to accommodate biological men identifying as transgender women in sports’ locker rooms.

I scratch my head trying to remember when the respect and honor for women’s equal rights was so vehemently defended! 

Silly me. I thought the Equality Act was meant to ensure…”that LGBTQ Americans are protected from discrimination in public accommodations, education, federally-funded programs, employment, housing ... and jury service." 

I worry that championing human rights is constantly stalled by protecting religious doctrines and time-honored prejudices as well as being synonymous with identity rights.

Here’s to all the brave women — the suffragettes, the Rosa Parks, and RBGs — who dared to challenge inequality. Their voices continue to lead the way — not just for our same-sex lives, but for Blacks, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans, and immigrants, as well as healthcare and environmental rights. 

Whatever human rights are achieved; they will always be replaced by new social challenges.

 For indeed, as Bertolt Brecht wrote at the end of WWII, 

“If we could learn to look instead of gawking,
We'd see the horror in the heart of farce,
If only we could act instead of talking,
We wouldn't always end up on our arse.
This was the thing that nearly had us mastered;
Don't yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!
Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
The bitch that bore the beast is in heat again.”


Inspired to share your story about what LGBTQ+ equality means to you? We'll be sharing DA member stories with Congressional representatives to build the support to pass the Equality Act. 

To share your story with Congress:  Add your story here. If you like, you can make a video. Your story can be up to 500 words.