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2019-MAR: The Federal LGBT Equality Act

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"LGBT" is an acronym for gender identity and sexual orientation minorities: lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender persons.

Back in early 2015, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) promoted a federal comprehensive nondiscrimination bill to protect LGBT individuals across the U.S. It did not progress.

The bill was reintroduced on Wednesday, 2019-MAR-13.

Laura Durso, the Vice President for LGBT Research at the Center for American Progress, wrote:

"The Equality Act would ensure meaningful and explicit protections in multiple areas of life on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It states clearly that LGBTQ people cannot be fired from a job, denied an apartment or a home loan, or be turned away from a restaurant just because of who they are. And it modernizes our civil rights laws to ensure that women, people of color, religious minorities, and other groups see their protections enhanced and expanded." 1

Masen Davis, the Chief Executive Officer of Freedom for All Americans sent an email to their mailing list on MAR-13, saying:

"The Equality Act would update federal law to include express and enduring nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity across virtually every area of daily life.

This legislation is exactly the kind of federal protection LGBTQ Americans urgently need and that Freedom for All Americans will continue to advocate for.

You know as well as I do that no one should be at risk of being fired, denied housing, or refused service at a business simply because of who they are, who they love, or what zip code they call home.

Congress should act now to ensure that LGBTQ Americans can go about their lives with dignity and respect.

Millions of LGBTQ people are vulnerable because over 30 states lack express and enduring protections." 2

Needless to say, Congress does not have the sole power to pass the bill into law. That is up to both Congress and President Trump. Although he campaigned for the Presidency partly on the basis of support for the LGBT community, he has been demonstration a lack of tolerance for sexual orientation and gender identity minorities since taking office.

According to Ian Thompson, Legislative Representative at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Equality Act has the support of 300 members of Congress. He said:

"From discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ youth in our nation’s schools to older same-sex couples who are denied housing in retirement communities because of their sexual orientation, this is something that LGBTQ people confront throughout our lives and in every corner of the country. ... [The bill] would provide LGBTQ people with consistent, explicit, and nationwide nondiscrimination protections across all of the key areas of daily life, including employment, housing, and access to public spaces and services. It would do this by explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in our nation’s federal civil rights laws — giving LGBTQ people the same protections that exist for other characteristics under federal law, such as race, religion, and national origin. ... And with the Trump administration and anti-LGBTQ activists doing everything they can to turn religious liberty into a license to discriminate, it’s important that the Equality Act also clarifies that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — which has been misused to license discrimination under the guise of “religious liberty” — can’t undercut civil rights protections for anyone." 3

The bill was introduced by Reps David Cicilline (D-RI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the House, and Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the Senate. The bill has an unusually high level of support, including:

  • 280 members of Congress,

  • 165 major business from Abercrombie & Fitch to Xillow Group, and

  • 288 state and national organizations. 4

President Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said:

"The harsh reality is that LGBTQ Americans still face real and persistent discrimination in their everyday lives. The new pro-equality majority in Congress has the chance to finally ensure LGBTQ people’s rights are not determined by what side of a city or state line they live on. ... now is the time to pass the bipartisan Equality Act." 4

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Results of a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI):

In their 2018 American Values Atlas, PRRI asked a random selection of 40,292 U.S. adults the question:

"All in all, do you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodation and housing?"

Results by various groups: age, political parties and faith groups:

Group Favor Oppose
All U.S. adults
69
24
By Age 18-29
76
29
30-49
72
21
50-64
66
27
65 and over
59
32
By political party
   
Republicans
56
36
Independents
70
24
Democrats
79
18
By Faith Group
NOTA (Not affiliated)
78
18
White Evangelical Protestant
54
38
White Mainline Protestant
71
23
Roman Catholic
71*
23*
Jehovah's Witnesses
53
29
Mormon
70
25
Jewish
80
18
New Age
86
9

That is, an anti discrimination law is favored by all age groups, political parties, and faith groups. It is opposed by none.


The five states most heavily in favor of an anti-discrimination act:

  • New Hampshire 81%
  • Utah 77%
  • Vermont 77%
  • Connecticut 76%
  • Washington 75%

The five states heavily opposed:

  • Wyoming 37%
  • Mississippi 36%
  • Kentucky 35%
  • South Carolina 34%
  • Alabama 34%

Michael Foust, writing for Christian Headlines, said:

"The Equality Act (H.R. 5) would amend federal laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system. Among the amended laws would be the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act

It would be the most significant LGBT rights bill ever passed. It has 240 co-sponsors. ..." 5

The sponsors include three Republicans and 237 Democrats.

There are about a dozen Biblical passages which some Christians have interpreted as condemning same-sex sexual activity. To religious conservatives, serious problems arise when business owners, churches, adoption agencies, etc. want to actively discriminate against members of the LGBT community because of their religious beliefs. This bill would prohibit discrimination against business customers, church members, adopting couples, etc. Many Christians feel that religious freedom extends beyond their personal religious beliefs, speech, writing, etc. to include the freedom to discriminate against members of the LGBT community. However, more liberal Christians often interpret the same passages differently, and reach the opposite conclusion.

A major problem arises in women's athletic events. A MTF transgender person is an individual who was identified as a biological male at birth but who now identifies as female. They often describe their situation as having a female brain in a male body. In most athletic events, if they were to enter as a woman, they would have an unfair physical advantage over most of the other female contestants.

Doriane Coleman, et al., writing a Washington Post editorial said that the bill:

"... would make it unlawful to differentiate among girls and women in sports on the basis of sex for any purpose. The evidence is unequivocal that starting in puberty, in every sport except sailing, shooting and riding, there will always be significant numbers of [biological] boys and men who would beat the best [biological] girls and women in head-to-head competition. Claims to the contrary are simply a denial of science.”

A senior Trump administration official said:

"The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights."

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has actively defended many business owners and others who, because of their personal religious beliefs, want to discriminate against their customers and others. Sarah Kramer of the ADF said:

"While it may sound nice to some ears, this bill actually poses a devastating and unprecedented threat to religious freedom and the progress that women have made toward true equal treatment in law and culture. ... [It would] threaten individuals, business owners, and non-profit organizations [by] forcing them to express messages or promote events that violate their deeply held religious convictions."

"[It would prohibit churches and religious nonprofit's] from requiring their employees to live out their religious beliefs about marriage, sexual morality, and the distinction between the sexes."

Sarah Kramer of ADF wrote on her group's web site:

“Essentially, the Equality Act gives people of faith an ultimatum: Change your faith-based practices or face government punishment."

The Family Research Council (FRC) distributed an email to its mailing list that attacked the Equality Act. FRC President Tony Perkins wrote:

"This is an all-out assault on parental rights, on the family, and on the millions of people of faith in this country.

"The legislation goes far beyond just quarantining faith behind the four walls of a house of worship. This act quarantines faith within your mind and says that's where it must stay. It creates a world that punishes those who exercise their freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs. No person of faith or institution be it a school, church, synagogue, mosque, business, or non-profit will escape its Orwellian reach. [Grammar corrected]

Pat Robertson, a famous U.S. televangelist claims that God will destroy the U.S. if the Equality Act passes. He said:

"This is a devastating blow to religious freedom and to the sanctity of America. ... If you want to bring the judgment of God on this nation, you just keep this stuff up. You know, I was reading in Leviticus where it said:

‘Because of these things, the land will vomit you out.’

Vomit you out. I think God will say,

‘I’ve had it with America, if you do this kind of stuff, I’m going to get rid of you as a nation'.

There is plenty of stuff that is going on, when you look at the potential of atomic war, when you look at the potential of a solar strike or something on our [electrical] grid, you could go down the line of devastation that could happen to our nation. We don’t want that. We want the blessing of God, not the curse of God."

Webmaster's comment:

It is important to understand that the Equality Act would only inhibit people's faith-based practices if those practices violate the Golden Rule by attacking people on the basis of their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, etc. The Golden Rule occurs in three Gospels where Jesus is quoted as saying:

  • Matthew 7:12: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
  • Luke 6:31: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."
  • Gospel of Thomas 6: "...and don't do what you hate..."

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The Equality Act was passed by the House:

On 2019-MAY-07, Lori Arnold, writing for Christian Headlines, said that the Equality Act:

"... passed the House Judiciary Committee last week and could face a floor vote as early as next week. 6

On MAY-17. U.S. House of Representatives' passed the Equality Act by a vote of 236 to 173. All of the NO votes were by Republican representatives. It now heads to the Senate where its chances of passage are almost nil because of Republican opposition. This is even though a majority of adults in every state and a majority of Democrat, Independent, and Republican voters favor protecting the LGBT community against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.

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2019-MAY-22: Life Site News, Liberty Counsel, and other conservative Christian groups oppose the Equality Act:

Lloyd Marcus, writing for Life Site News, said that the Equality Act is:

"... the most aggressive assault on our constitutional religious liberties in U.S. history." 8

Liberty Counsel Action is seeking signatures from fellow Conservatives to defeat the Equality Act, which it describes as:

"... a bill that will unleash the most radical, anti-religious discrimination America has yet faced."

Their web site states that H.R. 5 would:

  • "Silence those freed from same-sex conduct; this could even lead to banning the Bible,..."
  • "Enact many other bigoted directives that would effectively criminalize Christianity." 9

In reality, the bill would simply augment existing civil rights laws to include protection of the LGBT community so that the latter could not be discriminated against in employment, accommodation, and as customers.

Basically, the cause of the conflict is that many conservative religious groups believe that existing U.S. guarantees of freedom of religious speech, writing, and assembly, include the freedom to discriminate against others on religious grounds. The main target of discrimination are members of the LGBT community.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Laura Durso, "Passing the Equality Act," Center for American Progress, 2019-MAR-13, at: https://www.americanprogressaction.org
  2. Masen Davis, "Bipartisan support for federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections," Freedom for All Americans, 2019-MAR-13, via email from [email protected]
  3. Ian Thompson, Legislative Representative, "It’s High Time Congress Pass the Equality Act," American Civil Liberties Union, 2019-MAR-13, at: https://www.aclu.org/
  4. Stephen Peters, "The Historic, Bipartisan Equality Act to be Reintroduced in Congress With Unprecedented Support. Human Rights Campaign, 2019-MAR-13, at: https://www.hrc.org/
  5. Michael Foust, "Trump Opposes LGBT Equality Act – It’s ‘Filled with Poison Pills’," Christian Headlines, 2019-MAY-16, at: https://www.christianheadlines.com/
  6. Lori Arnold, "Equality Act Elevating Sexual Orientation over Religious Freedom Passes House Judiciary Committee," Christian Headlines, 2019-MAY-07, at: https://www.christianheadlines.com/
  7. Alex Bollinger, "Pat Robertson says there will be ‘atomic war’ if Christians can’t discriminate against LGBTQ people," LGBTQ Nation, 2019-MAY-15, at: https://www.lgbtqnation.com/
  8. Lloyd Marcus, "The Equality Act is the biggest threat to religious freedom in US history," Life Site News, 2019-MAY-22, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  9. "Our freedom is under fire! ...Save religious freedom in America!," Liberty Counsel Action, undated, at: https://lcaction.org/


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Copyright 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author:
B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2019-MAR-13
Latest update: 2019-MAY-23
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