Today, the “Equality Act” was introduced in Congress.
With a Democrat-controlled House and Senate, the passage of this legislation is more likely than ever before. And President Joe Biden campaigned on the promise that he would sign the Act into law within his first 100 days if passed.
But the “Equality Act” should be concerning to anyone who values religious freedom and true equality.
It is a deliberate attempt to force people of faith—good people who serve everyone—to promote messages and celebrate events that conflict with their sincere beliefs. The “Equality Act” would also threaten the equal treatment of women and upend the bedrock understanding of male and female in our law and culture.
To understand how, let’s take a more in-depth look at this legislation and its ramifications.
What is the “Equality Act”?
The essence of the “Equality Act” is its addition of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes to already existing federal nondiscrimination laws. This would prohibit employers, preschools, and even religious schools and organizations from making choices based on basic biology, bodily privacy, and their beliefs about the nature of marriage. It would apply to every single recipient of federal financial assistance (including every public school and almost all colleges and universities.)
And though “nondiscrimination” sounds good in the abstract, that is not what this bill is truly about. The bill actually poses a devastating and unprecedented threat to free speech, religious freedom, and the progress that women have made toward true equal treatment in law and culture.
The good news is that God has equipped Alliance Defending Freedom for such a time as this.
With 12 Supreme Court victories since 2011, ADF will stand up to the Biden administration, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, to protect the First Amendment rights of Americans.
How would the “Equality Act” threaten religious freedom and free speech?
ADF has seen the impact that laws similar to the “Equality Act” have had across the country. And we stand ready to provide a strong defense for religious freedom and free speech.
- The “Equality Act” could forbid churches and religious nonprofits from requiring their employees to live out their religious beliefs about marriage, sexual morality, and the distinction between the sexes. They could be required to open their sex-specific facilities to members of the opposite sex. ADF successfully represented one Massachusetts church after the government threatened to force it to open its women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence to males.
- The “Equality Act” would threaten religious foster care and adoption agencies with closure if they operate according to their deeply held belief that the best place for a child is a home with a married mother and father. In New York, for example, the state is using a sexual orientation, gender identity regulation—similar to the “Equality Act”—to shutter the adoption services of New Hope Family Services, which has been placing children in loving homes for over 50 years. ADF is representing New Hope in court.
- It would threaten creative professionals and other business owners who simply want to live and work according to their beliefs. ADF successfully represented promotional printer Blaine Adamson after he respectfully declined an organization’s request to print shirts with a message promoting an LGBT pride festival because the message violated his religious beliefs. But Blaine offered to connect the organization to another printer who would create the requested shirts. Even so, the organization filed a discrimination complaint against Blaine, and a local human rights commission ordered him to undergo diversity training.
- The “Equality Act” would also force individuals to speak messages that violate their beliefs under the threat of punishment. ADF is representing Dr. Nicholas Meriwether, who was disciplined by Shawnee State University for declining to refer to a male student as a woman. He offered to refer to the student by first or last name only, in order to respect both the student and his own beliefs, but this did not satisfy the university, which still punished him.
How would the “Equality Act” threaten women?
- The “Equality Act” would force women to share private spaces with men.
This is a threat to women who need critical services, such as those provided by Downtown Hope Center in Anchorage, Alaska. ADF successfully defended Downtown Hope Center after the city government tried to force the shelter to allow biological men who identify as female to sleep mere feet from women, many of whom have suffered rape, sex trafficking, and domestic violence. For these women, having a biological man in the room where they sleep or undress triggers severe anxiety and trauma—so much so that one woman said she would have to leave the shelter and sleep in the woods in the Alaskan winter, because she could not sleep in the same room as a biological male.
- The “Equality Act” would also undermine the purpose of Title IX.
Title IX was created to ensure equal opportunities for women in education. The “Equality Act” could destroy many of those opportunities. Among other consequences, the “Equality Act” could allow male athletes who identify as female to compete in women’s sports.
ADF represents four girls in Connecticut, where a state high school athletic policy does just that. These four female athletes have already lost races, state championships, and opportunities to compete at the highest level. Our laws should recognize the biological differences between the sexes; by ignoring those differences, the “Equality Act” could make Connecticut’s disastrous policy a nationwide reality.
What about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—doesn’t that provide some protection for these groups?
If you’re not already concerned about the scope and reach of the “Equality Act,” here’s another issue.
In the past, similar proposals have claimed to respect the concerns of the religious community, offering a few narrow protections for religious freedom. But the “Equality Act” offers no protections for religious freedom. In addition, the bill would forbid religious individuals and organizations even to invoke the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That would make it harder for the faithful to defend themselves against a bill designed to punish them for living out their beliefs.
Does that sound like equal treatment to you?
Essentially, the “Equality Act” gives people of faith an ultimatum: Change your faith-based practices or face government punishment.
The Bottom Line
Laws must respect freedom and promote justice for every citizen, no matter who they are. But that is not what the “Equality Act” does. Instead, it threatens Americans’ fundamental liberties. And that is something no American should stand for.