Democrats revive invoice to increase anti-discrimination legislation to financial institution clients of shade

WASHINGTON — More than a dozen Senate Democrats revived a push on Tuesday to extend civil rights-style protections for consumers seeking financial services. 

The bill, the Fair Access to Financial Services Act, was first introduced in 2020 when the Senate was under Republican control. If passed, it would entitle “all persons” to the “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, and accommodations of any financial institution,” according to the legislation.  

The text of the resurrected bill pulls from the language of the past civil rights laws. It states that such protections would ban discrimination from financial services on the basis of “race, color, religion, national origin, and sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity).”

Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, speaks to members of the media in April 2022.

Al Drago/Bloomberg

“Too many Black and brown Americans experience racial profiling and unequal treatment when trying to access services at banks and other financial institutions, and don’t have anywhere to turn to hold financial institutions accountable,” Brown said in a press release Tuesday. “Our legislation explicitly outlaws discrimination in our nation’s financial system so that everyone can access financial services free from harassment and abuse.”

Along with Brown, the legislation was co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Alex Padilla of California, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and  Dianne Feinstein of California. 

The original Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination from several public-facing institutions — namely hotels and restaurants — but did not extend its protections to banks and other financial institutions. 

The second recent push for the Fair Access to Financial Services Act comes in the wake of several high-profile incidents of Black bank customers being mistreated by financial institutions, including an infamous case in March when Ryan Coogler, director of the acclaimed 2018 Marvel movie “Black Panther,” was wrongfully accused of trying to rob a Bank of America branch in March after he attempted to withdraw money from his own account. 

“In 2022, no American should ever have to worry about being discriminated against when trying to open a bank account, getting a mortgage or starting a small business,” Warnock said in the press release. 

The lawmakers’ press release said their bill had been endorsed by National Urban League, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Responsible Lending, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, UnidosUS, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

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