Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced legislation today that would prevent discrimination against LGBT citizens during the federal jury selection process. The Jury ACCESS (Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection) Act would amend federal statute to prohibit the practice of striking jurors in federal courts on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The effort is co-sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and companion legislation will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) later today.
“There is no place for discrimination in our judicial system,” said Senator Collins. “I am proud to join Senator Shaheen in working to make sure no one is prohibited from fulfilling his or her fundamental right and obligation to serve on a jury based on his or her sexual identity.”
“Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has no place in our country,” Senator Shaheen said. “Every citizen has the right and responsibility to sit on a jury and participate in the judicial process, and the jury selection process should represent our country’s values of inclusion and acceptance.”
“Serving on a jury is one of America’s most cherished civic duties,” said Congresswoman Davis. “It is unjust to exclude a particular group of people from participating in civil society because of whom they love. The federal government already prohibits juror discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and economic status. As we pursue greater equality for all Americans, LGBT Americans should also be free from juror discrimination.”
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. The Jury ACCESS Act would amend the federal statute to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” meaning that striking jurors on that basis would be prohibited in federal courts.
Last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider its earlier holding that it is unconstitutional for a juror to be excluded on the basis of sexual orientation and that sexual orientation warrants the same strong legal protections in jury selection as other categories, such as sex and race. The 9th Circuit Court’s decision to not take up the issue again supports the concept behind Collins, Shaheen, and Davis’ legislation, however the Jury ACCESS Act is still necessary to codify the 9th Circuit’s ruling nationally.