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(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) announced today that their efforts to prevent discrimination in the federal jury selection process have taken a step forward with the inclusion of language from the bipartisan Jury ACCESS Act in the Financial Services FY2014 Appropriations bill. The Jury ACCESS (Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection) Act would amend the federal statute to prohibit the practice of striking jurors in federal courts on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity simply has no place in the United States,” said Senator Shaheen. “The judicial process should represent our nation’s principles of inclusion and acceptance, and eliminating the discriminatory exclusion of LGBT jurors is a necessary step to meeting that goal.”

“Jury service is an important public service, and I am pleased that the committee has adopted our language that would prohibit potential jurors from being dismissed for service in federal trials based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Senator Collins.

"The justice system only can provide fair trials if juries accurately represent our communities," said Senator Whitehouse. "I’m glad the Appropriations Committee has advanced this legislation to help ensure that no potential juror is blocked from serving solely based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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 the federal statute to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”, effectively meaning that striking jurors on that basis would be prohibited in federal courts.

The Jury ACCESS Act was introduced in January and has been endorsed by the following groups: Human Rights Campaign, Family Equality Council, Third Way, National LGBT Bar Association, ACLU, Lambda Legal, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Alliance for Justice, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.