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Shaheen, Collins Renew Bipartisan Push to End Discrimination against LGBT Individuals in Jury Selection Process

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) reintroduced their bipartisan legislation, the Jury Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection (ACCESS) Act, which would prevent discrimination against LGBT citizens during the federal jury selection process. The bipartisan bill would prohibit discrimination against jurors in federal courts on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.   

“Ensuring members of the LGBT community can fulfill their civic duties in an environment free from discrimination should not even be up for debate. Sadly, today, many face this kind of bigotry in our justice system, which is a disgraceful violation that Congress must rectify,” said Shaheen. “Our bipartisan legislation would make a commonsense and important change to ensure our judicial process is free from prejudice against LGBT Americans so they, like all Americans, can fulfil their civic duties and serve as jurors. This is a necessary step forward in realizing full equality under the law for LGBT Americans that Congress can and should get right.”

 “Serving on a jury is a fundamental right and obligation that no individuals should be prohibited from fulfilling based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Collins. “I have long worked to fight discrimination, and I am proud to join this effort to help eliminate bias from our judicial system.”  

Prior to the start of a trial, potential jurors come to the courtroom and the judge and attorneys begin a process to select who will sit on the jury and determine the facts of a case. The purpose is to arrive at a jury  that will be fair and impartial. This process involves asking the jurors questions about themselves and their experiences to discern whether they might harbor prejudices or hold strong opinions that would prevent an objective evaluation of the facts.  

The United States Code currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and economic status. However, there is no federal prohibition on discriminating against jurors based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Only eleven states prohibit exclusion from jury service in state court based on sexual orientation and just eight protect against discrimination based on gender identity. The Jury ACCESS Act would amend federal statute to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” meaning that striking jurors on that basis would be prohibited under federal law for the first time.    

Cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).