When is "equality" not a good thing?
When it is deceptively invoked to disguise legislation that will not advance equality, but will instead radically rewrite civil rights law and destroy religious freedom protections; that will impose "gender ideology" upon children, families, and faith-based institutions, affecting everything from bathroom privacy, to the integrity of women’s sports, to the right of religious people and institutions to live according to their sacred beliefs.
That is the true nature of the so-called "Equality Act," which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is pending in the U.S. Senate. It is actively opposed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops because it “discriminates against people of faith."
The bill would expand the reach of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or national origin, to now include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity"—thereby criminalizing those who hold to beliefs and practices that recognize marriage as between one woman and one man, and gender as a permanent biological reality, not a changeable social construct.
And to make sure that people and institutions of faith have no legal recourse, the bill exempts itself from the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, so that there will be no religious or conscience exemptions from its dictates.
As self-described "gay conservative" Brad Polumbo wrote in USA Today in May 2019, "the Equality Act goes too far for any level-headed gay rights advocate to support, and its blatant disregard for the basic right to religious freedom is appalling." (My emphasis)
This bill, if enacted, will:
- force religiously operated facilities—such as parish or Knights of Columbus halls—to either host events, like same-sex "weddings," that violate their beliefs, or close their doors to the community;
- require women and girls to compete against biological men and boys in scholastic sports, and to share restroom, locker room, and shower facilities with men and boys;
- mandate that faith-based charities either act in violation of their religious beliefs —for example, housing biological males in shelters for abused women, or placing children for foster care or adoption with same-sex, transgender, or non-married co-habiting couples—or be shut down, depriving people in need of their charitable services;
- cite "pregnancy discrimination" to mandate taxpayer funding of abortions and force health care providers to perform abortions in violation of their conscience or the teachings of their religion;
- force health care professionals, against their medical judgment and/or religious beliefs, to facilitate "gender transition" treatments, including hormone therapies and surgical procedures. "This," wrote Polumbo, "eviscerates freedom of conscience and tramples over the basic constitutional rights of religious Americans who work in the health care industry."
As Monica Burke at the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, the Equality Act also threatens employers and workers, particularly small and family-owned entities, with loss of their businesses and jobs if they refuse to violate their religious beliefs. This is already playing out on the state and local level, with florists, bakers, photographers, and many other wedding service providers charged with civil rights violations—some hit with crippling fines, others driven out of business altogether—because their religious or moral convictions prevent them from participating in same-sex "weddings."
The bill would also harm families, Burke points out, "by normalizing hormonal and surgical interventions for gender-dysphoric children"—the vast majority of whom outgrow such dysphoria "by the end of puberty"—"as well as ideological 'education' in schools and other public venues."
The Equality Act, then, is a collection of self-evident contradictions:
- Under the guise of prohibiting discrimination, it would discriminate against people and institutions of faith;
- Under the guise of protecting privacy, it would destroy women’s privacy in restrooms, locker rooms, showers, and homeless shelters;
- Under the guise of promoting equality, it would undermine women’s equality in sports;
- And of course, it denies equality for unborn children, whose mass destruction would be further advanced by its provisions.
The misnamed Equality Act should not pass. Please urge your Senators to oppose it.
For three decades, Rick Hinshaw has given voice to faith values in the public square, as a columnist, then editor of The Long Island Catholic; Communications Director for the Catholic League and the N.Y. State Catholic Conference; co-host of The Catholic Forum cable TV show; and now editor of his own blog, Reading the Signs. Visit Rick’s home page at rickhinshaw.com.
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