Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have introduced bipartisan legislation to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people from serving on juries in federal courts, the Human Rights Campaign reports.
The bill, the Jury Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection (ACCESS) Act of 2012, would prohibit attorneys from excluding potential federal jurors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 2000, a California prosecutor asked for the removal of Christopher Lewis, an African-American potential juror described by the trial judge as a “man dressed as a woman,” arguing:
“I believe that people who are either transsexuals or transvestites — I don’t know what the proper term is — traditionally are more liberal-minded thinking people, tend to associate more with the defendants because, obviously, they have been either ridiculed before or are feeling in a position of being in a microscope all the time and are outcasts which lends themselves to associating more with the defendant.”
Aside from setting a record for most insensitive and ignorant insults in the span of one sentence, the prosecutor’s argument was upheld in a federal court in 2005 as “no federal law” prevents attorneys from removing “cross-dressers or transvestites” from juries. Though California has since passed legislation banning jury discrimination based on sexual orientation, most states have not.
“Discriminating against a potential juror because of sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable, and it should not be tolerated. Our country is founded on principles of inclusion and acceptance and the jury selection process should be no different,” said Senator Shaheen upon introducing the bill. A similar bill, Jury Non-Discrimination Act of 2012, was introduced in the House of Representatives in May by Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ).
So, maybe soon, nothing will stop you from serving jury duty…try to contain your excitement.