Since 1994, federal lawmakers have repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation prohibiting discrimination because of sexual orientation and—later—gender identity. The 116th Congress, with its historic numbers of women, people of color, and LGBTQ members, offers the best chance yet for the Equality Act to pass the House of Representatives. But what exactly would it do?
The case was a classic civil rights case involving poor minorities whose need for basic travel to jobs and for everyday life fell victim to the desire of public officials to serve rail riders from the better-off, mostly white suburbs and the lure of flashy new trains and ribbon-cutting at sparkling new train stations.
The final question we had for Ms. Molina was the kicker, as we prepared her to testify in an upcoming summary judgment hearing in federal court. We were asking about the effects of the city of Richmond’s aggressive maintenance code enforcement campaign against the residents of the mobile home park where she lives. City inspectors had threatened her, like most of her neighbors, with imminent displacement and the condemnation of her home (a later review of the inspectors’ notes showed that there was nothing to justify condemning the home, despite the city’s threats). “How often do you think about it,” we asked the retiree from El Salvador. Ms. Molina’s eyes welled up with tears and, after a pause, her voice cracked, “All the time.” She paused as she wept. “All the time.”