Over the past year, most of us have gotten used to wearing masks. We’ve worn them to protect ourselves and others from an airborne virus. But while they might have their purpose in managing a public health crisis, masks shouldn’t be used to mislead legislators or hide sweeping policy changes from the public.
The so-called Equality Act — passed Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives — disguises itself as toleration and empowerment. But under the mask, it’s one of the most anti-religious and dangerous pieces of legislation in our nation’s history — promising to harm women and children, radically alter the legal landscape and threaten religious communities.
The bill’s supporters claim they’re doing great good by adding the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law. But the far left is obscuring the implications of their vote. Maybe that’s why they’ve skipped the normal committee process — eliminating the opportunity to invite expert testimony or in-depth criticism.
Despite these actions, the Equality Act deserves serious scrutiny and rigorous debate. As a woman, a mother, an attorney and a Christian, I oppose this dangerous and coercive legislation.
As a woman and a mother, the Equality Act poses profound threats to me and those I care about. It federalizes the idea that anyone who feels like or identifies as a woman must be treated exactly like a woman. My transgender neighbors certainly should be treated with dignity and respect. But choosing to eliminate “woman” or “female” as a meaningful category undermines decades of progress for women. It asserts the power of the federal government to spread adults’ sexual messages to children nationwide — regardless of state or local school district policy or parental convictions.
It’s puzzling for Glamour magazine to celebrate Caitlyn Jenner as “Woman of the Year” and problematic for Amazon or Target to ban books that tackle these complex topics. But it’s extreme for Congress to mandate that private spaces like showers and locker rooms be open to men who identify as women — like we’ve seen in Pennsylvania and Alaska. Or require girls to compete against boys who wish to be known as female — like we’ve seen in Connecticut, Hawaii and Idaho.
As an attorney, I’m concerned that the Equality Act erases a bipartisan law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — signed by President Bill Clinton and designed to give people of faith the opportunity to argue their case in court. It also greatly expands “public accommodations” as a meaningful category — threatening to include private institutions like churches and religious schools. Such aggressive and conscience-crushing policies undermine the most basic and fundamental tenets of our legal system and violate the First Amendment’s protections for Americans’ ability to live out the implications of our deeply held beliefs.
As a Christian, I’m joined by millions of others who believe in the unchangeable, binary and amazing differences between male and female — truths bolstered by science. Since the dawn of time, all the Abrahamic faiths have also believed that marriage is the lifelong union between one man and one woman. The U.S. Supreme Court has rightly recognized that “reasonable” and “sincere” people hold these beliefs in good faith. But the Equality Act severely punishes those who hold these basic beliefs.
Where similar policies have been enacted at a state or a local level, creative professionals have been required to speak messages that violate their consciences. LGBT activists view this legislation as their new weapon of choice—a tool to force all employers to cover “sex reassignment” surgeries and abortions, to open up private sex-specific spaces, and to use the wrong pronouns and surnames.
You don’t need to be a woman, a mother, an attorney or a Christian to stand up and oppose the Equality Act. Masquerading as equality and fairness, it only creates more victims. No one should face unjust discrimination, but this legislation discriminates against all Americans except the most woke tribe — depriving us of basic religious freedom, free speech and parental rights and turning back the clock on true equality between men and women.
• Kristen Waggoner is general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.