Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today reintroduced legislation 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 the federal statute to prohibit the practice of striking jurors in federal courts on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Serving on a jury is a fundamental right and obligation that no one should be prohibited from fulfilling based on his or her sexual orientation,” said Senator Collins. “I have long worked to fight discrimination, and I am proud to join this effort to eliminate bias from our judicial system.”
“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 fulfill their civic duty by sitting on a jury and participating in the judicial process. Our jury selection process should represent our country’s values of inclusion and acceptance, not fall prey to 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.
In 2014, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 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 Shaheen and Collins’ legislation, however the Jury ACCESS Act is still necessary to codify the 9th Circuit’s ruling nationally.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Ed Markey (D-MA). A companion bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Susan Davis (D-CA) and Pat Meehan (R-PA) later today.