Kennedy at BBC

U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-Brookline. (File photo.)

U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III is co-sponsoring a bill that seeks to extend civil rights protections in employment, housing and other areas to gay and transgender citizens.

The chief sponsor of the bill is Kennedy's neighbor to the south, Rep. David Cicilline, R-R.I.

It would ban discrimination based on sexual preference and sexual identity in a number of areas, similar to the way the Civil Rights Act of 1964 providing protection to people based on race, color, religion, gender and national origin.

Some of those protections already exist for gay and transgender people in some states, but not all.

Proponents contend it would prevent gay and transgender people from being fired or being denied housing based on who they are.

"From public opinion to the Supreme Court, recent gains have accelerated this country's ongoing civil rights march," Kennedy, D-Brookline, said.

"But real justice will be served when the LGBT community is guaranteed both legal equality and living equality. Most of us take for granted walking into a restaurant without worrying about being denied service because of our gender identity or entering a movie theater without fear of being turned away because of the hand you held as you walked in.

"But for too many LGBT Americans, even the simplest moments of their everyday lives can be defined by the constant threat of judgment, rejection and prejudice. The Equality Act will work to end that intolerance, and I thank Congressman Cicilline for his tremendous leadership on this issue," Kennedy said.

Some conservative Republicans in Congress have argued that the bill could result in the religious rights of Americans being violated by forcing them to accommodate gay weddings and other activities they say go against their conscience.

They have filed a bill to strengthen religious rights.

JIM HAND covers politics for The Sun Chronicle. He can be reached at 508-236-0399, at jhand@thesunchronicle.com and on Twitter @TSCPolitics.

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