During a hearing for the Equality Act, a bill that would rewrite the Civil Rights Act to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected categories, Dennis Wiley, the pastor at an LGBT-inclusive United Church of Christ, spoke in support of the bill’s passage. That pastor happened to be the father of Orange Is the New Black actress Samira Wiley.
“Our LGBTQ brothers and sisters should never have to fear losing a job, being evicted from a house or apartment, being refused service at a restaurant, denied approval or a loan or rejected admission to a school because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Wiley, the pastor at Washington, D.C.’s, Covenant United Baptist Church, said.
"Let's make sure the #EqualityAct becomes law so that all of our beautiful, promising, gifted LGBTQ citizens just like my daughter @samirawiley and daughter-in-law @lomorelli can live their lives free of fear" The Rev. Dr. Dennis W. Wiley's testimony to House Judiciary Committee pic.twitter.com/zb6Z0rgmEe
— Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons (@GuthrieGF) April 2, 2019
Wiley also shared the story of his daughter’s coming out, which happened when they travelled to New York to see her perform in a play.
“We were shocked because we did not see this coming, however I immediately got up, went over to her, gave her a hug and told her how much I loved her,” Wiley said. “My wife was a little slower responding, not because she was disappointed or upset, but because being a mother she was afraid of what danger our daughter might face.”
He added, “Let’s make sure the Equality Act becomes law, so that all of our beautiful, promising, gifted LGBTQ citizens, just like my daughter and daughter-in-law, can live their lives free of fear, free of bigotry, and free of discrimination.”
Wiley married Orange Is the New Black writer Lauren Morelli in 2017.
Wiley is not the only parent who urged Congress to pass the Equality Act. During the hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) teared up as she spoke about her gender nonconforming child.
“We’re talking about fear versus love,” Jayapal, a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, said. “We’re talking about fear versus freedom.”
She added that she saw her child blossom after they came out.
“Over the last year, I have come to understand from a deeply personal mother’s perspective ― I’ve always been a civil rights activist, I’ve always fought for my constituents and my communities to have equal rights ― but from a mother’s perspective, I came to understand what their newfound freedom ― it is the only way I can describe what has happened to my beautiful child, what their newfound freedom to wear a dress, to rid themselves of some conformist stereotype of what they are, to be able to express who they are at their real core,” Jayapal said.
Continuing the trend of parents speaking out for their children, Sally Field also recorded a PSA about the Equality Act with her out gay son.
Democratic lawmakers introduced the bill to Congress on March 13. Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously said the Equality Act would be a legislative priority for the newly-Democratic congress. If the Equality Act passes in the House, it will be the first federal bill guaranteeing LGBTQ+ protections to pass the legislative body.