In this Oct. 8, 2019, file photo, protesters gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington. Legislation that would create new protections for LGBTQ Americans has stalled in the U.S. Senate. Democrats were hopeful they could pass the Equality Act while they control Congress and the White House. Credit: Susan Walsh / AP

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Vivian A. Mikhail is a lawyer practicing in Portland.

Just when you thought bipartisanship was as extinct as the Tyrannosaurus rex, Republican and Democratic state lawmakers in Arizona recently came together and introduced a bill that would protect gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

In terms of progress, this is to be celebrated. But, in 2022, it’s nearly impossible to believe that it is still legal to discriminate against millions of LGBTQ Americans who live in 29 states that lack comprehensive, statewide anti-discrimination laws. While Maine already has its own law, Republicans and Democrats in Congress should work together and finally pass historic legislation that would prevent discrimination against LGBTQ Americans once and for all – no matter where they live. It can be done, it should be done, and now is the time to do it.

All Americans deserve the freedom to work hard, earn a living, and contribute to their communities regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. To pass this legislation, however, will take a willingness from U.S. senators on both sides of the aisle to work together and come up with a proposal that can get the 60 votes it will take to overcome a filibuster and get such a bill through a Senate that is currently evenly divided 50/50.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House passed the Equality Act, which is aimed at ending LGBTQ discrimination. That bill, however, is stalled in the Senate over concerns that, among others, it could infringe on First Amendment rights. I don’t necessarily share these concerns, but reality is the bill won’t go anywhere if someone doesn’t stand up to do what’s right and break this impasse.

Centrist Republicans like Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and moderate Democrats such as Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), and Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire), and Maine Independent Angus King, have all demonstrated their concern for ensuring LGBTQ Americans are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. These are some of the senators who came together just a few months ago to pass a historic bipartisan bill to fix our nation’s roads and bridges. Surely, they can work together and come up with a practical compromise to address concerns with the Equality Act that will allow all Americans to shop in a store, check into a hotel, get an education, or rent a home without fear of discrimination.

The clock, though, is ticking. This is an election year and soon focus will turn from policy to politics. Once that happens, the chance to protect millions of our family members, friends, neighbors, loved ones, who can still legally be fired, evicted, and denied credit simply because of who they are, will be lost.

We all know that freedom and fairness make our country stronger. The Senate can prove this by setting politics aside and finding a reasonable plan that would protect all LGBTQ Americans before this historic opportunity is lost for another generation.