March 1, 2021
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, legislation that supporters say is necessary to protect those who identify as LGBT from unjust discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other areas of American life. The bill passed by a 224-206 vote; only three Republicans joined Democrats to support it (down from eight who voted for it in 2019).
While some praised the passing of the bill in the House as a step toward ending discrimination, a careful analysis of the bill reveals that the Equality Act would codify into law the most extreme demands of the moral revolution while stigmatizing anyone who dares to dissent from the new orthodoxy.
On paper, the Equality Act proposes almost 60 amendments to nearly 10 different laws including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Civil Rights Act of 1968, and the Fair Housing Act. While eradicating discrimination is a commendable goal, it is clear the Equality Act will do nothing to end discrimination. In fact, if enacted into law, the bill will accelerate discrimination against tens of millions of Americans whose beliefs on marriage and human sexuality are informed by science and religious convictions.
While the implications of a bill as expansive as the Equality Act are difficult to calculate, the most immediate effects are clear. For starters, the Equality Act would dramatically expand abortion access, remove religious liberty protections, virtually end women’s and girls’ sports, and threaten Christian seminaries, universities, and colleges.
On the issue of human life, the Equality Act effectively creates a legislative right to abortion. It does this primarily via changes to Title II of the Civil Rights Act regarding “Public Accommodations.” Health care would be added as a “public accommodation” and “sex” would be added as a protected class. “Sex” is redefined to include “pregnancy… or a related medical condition.” Courts have ruled that “related medical condition” includes abortion. Further, the Equality Act has no conscience protections for health care providers who morally oppose abortion or restriction on taxpayers funding of abortion.
The Equality Act also severely undermines religious liberty. First, by expanding the definition of a public accommodation to include any establishment that provides goods, services, or programs to their communities, churches that operate food banks, homeless shelters, and the like, could be compelled to comply with the Equality Act’s requirements in how they run these programs. They would no longer be allowed to have sex-segregated services and programs or private facilities when operating these services and programs. While ministerial exemptions will continue (for now) to protect churches from hiring clergy who openly identify as homosexual, churches could be required to hire people for non-ministerial positions who do not agree with the church’s beliefs on marriage and sexuality. Second, the Equality Act explicitly exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which passed unanimously in the House and 97-3 in the Senate before President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1993. If a religious individual believes the Equality Act has violated their beliefs, RFRA is no longer a claim they can bring in court; if they are sued for non-compliance, RFRA is not a defense they can raise.
Third, the Equality Act virtually ends women’s and girls’ sports. Already, biological male athletes are winning athletic competitions against biological females in places like Connecticut that allow athletes to compete based on their gender identify. For example, since 2017, two biological male runners in Connecticut have won a combined 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races. By redefining “sex” to include the contested category of gender identity, competitions reserved for women and girls would have to admit biological males who identify as female. Not only is this unfair to the tens of thousands of female athletes who have little to no chance of beating male athletes, it is also unsafe in high contact sports because biological males are naturally faster and stronger. Therefore, another consequence of the Equality Act is erasing scholarship and recruitment opportunities for female athletes.
Women’s safety and privacy are also sacrificed on the altar of political correctness by requiring the admittance of biological males who identify as female into bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and changing facilities reserved for biological females.
Additionally, if enacted into law, the Equality Act would threaten the existence of Christian seminaries, universities, and colleges that receive any form of federal financial assistance, potentially including federal loans which many students use to pay tuition. By amending Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a “catch all” non-discrimination provision on all federal funds, the Equality Act would require schools that receive federal funding to comply with its sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI) requirements, including admissions and housing standards. The financial impact of this would be devastating for Christian colleges and many would be forced to shut down.
Given its House passage, the bill now moves to the U.S. Senate, where Democrats also have control. It is alarming that a bill which denies the reality of womanhood, expands abortion, and guts religious liberty is this close to becoming law. But hope is not lost—Senate passage is not a foregone conclusion, and Americans should mobilize to ensure it is defeated. Family Research Council has resources that people can use to educate themselves and others about the bill. Additionally, people can contact their senators and inform them of their opposition to the Equality Act.
As those who believe that all people are made in God’s image and possess inherent value and dignity, Christians should oppose discrimination. But despite its clever name, the Equality Act does nothing to advance equality or stymie discrimination. Instead, the legislation would mandate conformity to an ideology antithetical to core tenets of the Christian worldview and codify a host of harmful social policies (detailed above) that touch on nearly every facet of life. Therefore, it should be opposed vigorously.