• White House Press Office

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley on Thursday introduced the Equality Act, a bill that would add the LGBT community to the list of groups protected the 1964 Civil Rights Act, making it federally illegal to discriminate against people based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

According to a news release from Merkley's office, 40 other Senators currently support the legislation. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) simultaneously filed the bill in the House, where 158 Representatives are behind it.

“Every person deserves to live free from fear of discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love," Merkley said in the news release. "Enacting the Equality Act will bring us another significant step forward in our nation’s long march towards inclusion and equality. It will extend the full promise of America to every American.”

The road to the bill's passage will likely be a long one, but when passed it will protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit, public accommodations, jury service, and federally funded programs. Not only that, the legislation also adds the category of sex to the Civil Rights act, which would advance women's federally protected rights.