The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is currently holding a hearing on legislation known as the Equality Act or HR 5. Supporters and opponents argued about the bill that would protect gender identity and sexual orientation under federal civil rights law. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the Equality Act on February 25.
According to Virginia Allen, conservatives argued that it “would infringe upon religious freedom and other rights of parents, women, and children,” while liberals argued that it “simply would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is the ranking member of the committee, and his opening remarks included this statement: “Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect…. But the Equality Act, I strongly suspect, … would actually dictate what women, girls, schools, churches, doctors, and others must believe.” Allen found four highlights in the hearing.
1. “Misnamed” Act
President Joe Biden … urged Congress to pass the Equality Act “because no one should ever face discrimination or live in fear because of who they are or whom they love.” …
Opponents argued that the bill’s title is misleading and in fact the legislation would harm the equality that women spent decades fighting for.
The Equality Act is “misnamed because although this act supports the prevention of discrimination, it actually causes it by undermining hard-fought protections for women,” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., said.
By expanding the definition of sex under federal law to include gender identity and sexual orientation, the Equality Act stands to eliminate women-only spaces such as locker rooms, restrooms, sororities, and sports teams, Hyde-Smith said.
Gender ideology is at the heart of the bill and is “misogyny in progressive clothing,” said Abigail Shrier, an independent journalist and author of the book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.” …
Shrier provided the Judiciary Committee with a sober warning as she concluded her testimony:
For generations, women like the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to create sex-based protections to make life safe and fair for women. If you vote to take away those rights, don’t pretend you have achieved a civil rights victory. In the name of inclusivity, you will have made life far less safe, far less fair, and far less inclusive for America’s women and girls.
2. “We Just Need to Be Able to Live Our Lives”
Advocates of the Equality Act argued that the legislation would not have negative implications for women’s sports or religious institutions, but simply provide equal protection under the law….
3. Women and Girls Only Ones “Asked to Bear This Risk”
The future of women’s sports is bleak if the Equality Act become law, numerous GOP leaders and women’s right’s activists argued.
“It is none of government’s business what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, adding:
It is none of government’s business the sexual orientation or gender identity of adults in their own lives. But this bill is not about that. This bill is about mandating that biological males should be allowed to compete in girls’ sports and women’s sports, effectively repealing Title IX.
Title IX is the federal civil rights law that protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex, including in education opportunities.
Sen. Joshua Hawley, R-Mo., posed several questions to Shrier, asking why she believes the Equality Act would hurt girls and women’s sports….
But the reality is that there “is only one group that is asked to bear this risk,” Shrier said. “It is always women and girls. No boys will suffer because biological girls enter their sport. But girls will lose material opportunities.” …
When Cruz questioned her later in the hearing, Shrier noted that in Connecticut, two biological boys who identify as females took 13 out of 14 high school championship track and field titles in 2019.
4. “Where No Federal Law Has Gone Before”
The Equality Act would redefine sex as something that is self-defined, testified Mary Rice Hasson….
“Biological sex matters in law, medicine, and for many of us, in the practice of our faith,” Hasson said. “The Equality Act goes where no federal law has gone before.”
The bill threatens religious organizations by removing protection provided by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, a federal law also known as RFRA, Hasson warned in her opening statement….
RFRA, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, ensures that the interests of religious freedom, including hiring those of like beliefs, are protected.
But the Equality Act essentially would prevent religious institutions from “having recourse” to the protection the earlier law provides, Hasson said.
If passed, the Equality Act would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity within “places of public accommodation,” which, in a break with legal tradition, would include churches, mosques, temples, and other places of worship.
The bill opens the doors for places of worship to be “subject to discrimination suits because they are now going to be considered public accommodation in the same way as a [sports] stadium,” Hasson said.
Hasson added that, as currently written, the legislation “ties the hands of religious believers and says, ‘You are not welcome to live your faith in the public square.’”
It appears that the more we learn about the Equality Act, the more we know that it is not about equality. It is not about equality for women and girls, and it is not about equality for religion.