The Equality Act, introduced in Congress today, will endanger women and threaten religious freedom — according to commentators on the far right.
The backlash to the bill, which would amend existing civil rights law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, came quickly and focused on the right’s favorite arguments — that transgender people are predators and that people with “traditional” religious beliefs are victims.
The Equality Act “would undermine women’s equality and force women and girls to share private, intimate spaces with men who identify as female, in addition to denying women fair competition in sports,” said a statement released by Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the Alliance Defending Freedom’s U.S. legal division. “Like similar state and local laws, it would force Americans to participate in events and speak messages that violate their core beliefs.”
Waggoner further called the legislation “intolerant” and “deceptively titled,” and said it would “undermine human dignity by threatening the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience that the First Amendment guarantees for every citizen.” Waggoner’s group, designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, made similar arguments when representing a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The baker won a qualified victory at the Supreme Court.
Terry Schilling, executive director of American Principles Project, appealed to transphobia in his statement on the bill. “Forcing young girls to shower with men. Telling abused women they have to room with men in battered women’s shelters. Allowing men to compete against — and typically beat — women in women’s sporting events. This is what ‘equality’ looks like as defined by the radical Left. This is what ‘equality’ would look like under the so-called ‘Equality’ Act,” he said.
“The reality is that this bill isn’t about equality — it’s about enshrining supremacy into the law for one ideology over another,” he continued. “And the result will be the widespread erasure of women, prohibition of dissent, and sexualization of children.”
In a column for The Daily Caller, Schilling doubled down on the anti-trans arguments, writing, “Not only would the Equality Act nationalize such policies and make it ‘discriminatory’ for any sports league to restrict competition by biological sex, the bill would disadvantage women and take away fundamental freedoms in a host of other ways, many of which are far more dangerous than being disenfranchised at athletic competitions.” He also cited Donald Trump Jr. as a champion of women’s equality, as the president’s son recently called it a “grave injustice” that transgender women can compete against cisgender women in sports.
Of course, Schilling conveniently ignores that all available research indicates that allowing trans women into spaces designated for women does not endanger cisgender women, but trans women are in danger when forced to share intimate spaces with men. And in many sports there are regulations that deal with the supposed advantage held by trans women — the International Olympic Committee, for instance, allows trans women to compete in women’s sports only if their testosterone is below a certain level. Also, hormones and chromosomes are not the only factors that figure in athletic performance.
There’s no word yet from some of the biggest names in anti-LGBTQ activism, such as Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. However, the FRC did tweet a link to an article published online Monday by the Gospel Coalition, an association of churches in the Christian Reformed faith, in anticipation of the Equality Act’s introduction.
The article, authored by Andrew T. Walker, contended that the bill “represents the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America.” It “would forever cement the legitimacy of sexual-revolution ethics into federal law,” “accelerate the number of conflicts pitting Christians against their conscience,” and “accelerate the pace of anti-Christian bias in society.”
However, the bill maintains the religious exemptions of civil rights law, and at any rate, many mainstream Christian churches (and other faith bodies) have become big supporters of LGBTQ equality. So it’s not accurate to call it anti-Christian. It just makes clear that one’s religious beliefs cannot be used to justify discrimination in the public sphere, while churches and ministers would remain free to believe and preach what they please.
But Walker nonetheless struck an apocalyptic tone. The Equality Act’s “sweeping effects on religious liberty, free speech, and freedom of conscience would be both historic and also chilling,” he declared, concluding that if the bill passes, it will “cement … anti-Christian bias into American law.”
Similar statements are likely to come from many sources on the right as debate on the bill proceeds.