Sixteen-year-old Stella Keating virtually testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Equality Act on Wednesday, March 17 — and she’s getting tons of praise online.
Keating, a high school sophomore from Washington state, began her testimony by introducing herself, stating her pronouns and saying that the opportunity to testify as a witness was the “honor of her lifetime.”
Although significant change has been brought forward for the LGBTQ+ community — like the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, the repealing of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell gay military ban in 2011 and the legalization of same-sex marriage across all 50 states in 2015 — these Americans still lack basic legal protections in multiple states throughout the country.
The Equality Act is a bill that prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system. It’s already been passed by the House, but for it to be considered an official law, it must pass the Senate and ultimately, the
WATCH 16-year old Stella Keating testify: “As a high-school sophomore, I’m starting to look at colleges. And all I can think about is this: less than half of the states in our country provide equal protection for me under the law… How is that even American?” pic.twitter.com/bkhCVObNlD
— Senate Judiciary Committee (@JudiciaryDems) March 17, 2021
Keating went on to say that she just got her driver’s license and enjoys hiking, playing chess and the ukelele. She even introduced her parents, who were supporting her off-camera. She then explained the mission of the GenderCool Project, a movement she launched three years ago, which aims to “help replace opinions with real experiences meeting transgender and nonbinary youth who are thriving.”
Through GenderCool, Keating and her peers — who are often referred to as “champions” — have traveled across the country to speak to corporations and the media regarding LGBTQ+ equality issues.
She didn’t begin her opening remarks by addressing attacks on her identity or the ongoing debate between the legislation — in fact, she didn’t even introduce herself as transgender until the halfway point of her testimony.
She then went on to criticize the current state of the country, which still puts the LGBTQ+ community at risk for discrimination without the protections outlined in the Equality Act.
“As a high-school sophomore, I’m starting to look at colleges. And all I can think about is this: less than half of the states in our country provide equal protection for me under the law,” Keating said. “What happens if I want to attend college in a state that doesn’t protect me? Right now, I could be denied medical care or be evicted for simply being transgender in many states. How is that even right? How is that even American?”
Keating, who wants to potentially pursue a career in politics, ended her testimony by expressing how Gen Z — including those who identify as LGBTQ+ — is the future of America.
“I represent America’s future. We are the next generation of small business owners. Software engineers. Scientists. Teachers. Nurses. Presidents. And for my generation to achieve all that we will, we just need to be able to live our lives,” she said.
To learn more about the Equality Act, visit the official bill’s page on the U.S. Congress.