US Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) this week re-introduced bipartisan legislation that would abolish discrimination against LGBT citizens during the federal jury selection process. The Jury ACCESS (Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection) Act of 2013 would prohibit the practice of striking jurors in federal courts on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The legislation has already been endorsed by a large coalition of civil rights advocacy groups and key leaders in the LGBT community, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBT Bar Association and the Alliance for Justice.
"We simply can't tolerate discrimination against a potential juror because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Our country is founded on the principles of inclusion, acceptance, and equality. The jury selection process in federal courts should reflect those principles," said Senator Shaheen.
"Jury service is an important public service," said Senator Collins. "Our bill would prohibit potential jurors from being dismissed for service in federal trials based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity.
"The justice system can only provide fair trials if juries accurately represent our communities," said Senator Whitehouse. "This legislation will help ensure that no potential juror is blocked from serving solely based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. I am proud to join Senators Shaheen and Collins in support of this bill."
"Arbitrary and discriminatory exclusion of LGBT jurors has no place in our federal courts. We appreciate the bipartisan leadership of Senators Shaheen, Collins and Whitehouse to help ensure every American is guaranteed the right to be judged by a jury of his or her peers," said Allison Herwitt, Legislative Director of the Human Rights Campaign.
"The LGBT Bar is proud to support the Jury ACCESS Act. Serving on juries is an essential civic duty especially in protecting the rights of all citizens. We applaud Senators Shaheen, Collins, and Whitehouse and the important work they're doing to ensure that the LGBT community will not be denied a jury of their peers," added D'Arcy Kemnitz, Executive Director of the National LGBT Bar Association.
As it currently stands, the United States Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and economic status during jury selection in federal courts. However, the code does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Jury ACCESS Act would amend federal law to specifically prohibit that form of discrimination.
The legislation has already been endorsed by key civil rights advocacy groups and many leading voices in the LGBT community. In addition to the Human Rights Campaign, the National LBGT Bar Association, and the Alliance for Justice, the bill has also been endorsed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, the Family Equality Council, Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Third Way, and the Immigration Equality Action Fund.