The misleadingly named Equality Act resurfaces
Religious Liberty | The legislation expands LGBT protections at expense of religious freedom
by Steve West
Posted 2/23/21, 12:38 pm
Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, backed by President Joe Biden, reintroduced a broad bill on Thursday that would write LGBT protections into federal civil rights statutes. If enacted, the proposed law will trump religious liberty for people and institutions holding to Biblical standards on marriage and sexuality.
It’s not the first go round for the controversial Equality Act. A virtually identical bill passed the House in May 2019 only to fizzle without a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. This year, it won’t be a cakewalk in the now–evenly divided Senate. The chamber’s filibuster rules require 60 votes to pass the legislation—meaning it would need every Democratic senator plus 10 Republicans.
In last year’s Bostock v. Clayton County ruling, the Supreme Court extended sexual orientation and gender identity protections to cover secular employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Equality Act would not only enshrine that ruling as law but extend it to many other areas without adding corresponding religious freedom protections.
Andrew Walker, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote of the 2019 version of the bill that it would shape the long-term morality of the country: “Virtually no area of American life would emerge unscathed from the Equality Act’s reach.”
The bill explicitly overrides the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law which prevents the federal government from burdening the exercise of faith without a compelling reason and requiring it to do so in the least restrictive way possible.
Stanley Carlson-Thies, founder and senior director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, noted the sweeping Equality Act would run roughshod over existing protections for religious people and institutions. He said it would require faith-based adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples, religious nonprofits to hire employees who do not adhere to their faith, and medical staff at religious hospitals to perform elective abortions and gender transition surgeries against their convictions.
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Steve is a legal correspondent for WORLD. He is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, Wake Forest University School of Law, and N.C. State University. He worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor and is now an attorney in private practice. Steve resides with his wife in Raleigh, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @slntplanet.