Gottheimer Introduces Bill on LGBT Credit Safeguards

Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Alyana Alfaro for Observer

In a sharp departure from his predecessor, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5) has introduced a bill to forbid lenders from discriminating against gay and transgender individuals.

Gottheimer is the lead sponsor of the Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act along with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

His predecessor in the 5th District, former Rep. Scott Garrett, earned notoriety in 2015 after Politico reported that he told Republican colleagues he was withholding contributions to the House GOP’s lead fundraising committee because it backed gay candidates. Garrett is now President Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Federal law already makes it illegal for banks and lenders to deny credit on the basis of race, skin color, national origin, religion, sex, age and marital status. The Gottheimer-Murray bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list.

New Jersey, 14 other states, and Washington, D.C., already have similar laws in place.

“All Americans should be free to pursue their dreams, whether that be buying a home, starting a business, or continuing their education,” Gottheimer said in a statement. “New Jersey is a leader in making certain that LGBTQ Americans have fair access to credit, and I am proud to introduce legislation to make it the law of the land nationwide.”

A similar but more comprehensive measure, the Equality Act, which included a range of new protections for gay and transgender individuals on employment, housing, public education, credit and other areas, was introduced in 2015 but died in committee in the Republican-controlled Congress. Gay rights groups and major companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google supported that bill, and some Republicans signed on as sponsors.

“No one’s ability to purchase a home or finance their education or business should be denied simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.