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GOP Rep Wants to Call Equality Act 'Forfeiting Women's Rights Act'

Debbie Lesko

A Republican congresswoman from Arizona wants to rename the Equality Act the “Forfeiting Women’s Rights Act.”

A total of 34 amendments have been submitted to the U.S. House Rules Committee for consideration, but “the distinction for the most condescending and superficial amendment goes to Rep. Debbie Lesko,” who proposed the name change, the Washington Blade reports.

The Equality Act, which is expected to come up for a House vote next week, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights laws. Some opponents have tried to characterize the bill as a threat to women’s rights because of its transgender-inclusive provisions.

Amendments to proposed bills must be submitted to the House Rules Committee, which then decides which can be voted on. As the House has a Democratic majority, so does the committee, which means the most egregious Republican-backed amendments, many of which are anti-trans, likely won’t get a vote, the Blade notes. Of the 34 amendments, 28 are from Republicans. All the amendments were posted on the committee’s website Friday.

In addition to the name change, Lesko submitted an amendment aimed at ensuring that “parents’ custody of their child is not threatened by them simply questioning their child’s gender identity decisions and changes”; one that “clarifies that nothing in this bill can require a place of public accommodation to be required to convert any space separated on the basis of sex to a separation on the basis of gender identity”; and another saying “nothing in this Act or any amendment made by this Act may be construed to grant or secure any right relating to abortion or the provision or funding thereof.”

Other legislators have proposed similar amendments asserting parents’ or doctors’ rights to deny transition procedures to minors or preventing transgender people from accessing public restrooms or other facilities that match their gender identity.

Some other amendments deal with religious exemptions to the act, as it currently stipulates that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not an excuse for violation of the Equality Act. One proposed by Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, a longtime foe of LGBTQ rights, would assure that RFRA applies to the law. Others likewise called for broad religious exemptions, such as two from another Texas Republican, Roger Williams.

The few amendments from Democrats are mostly “aimed at enhancing the bill’s prohibition on anti-LGBT discrimination rather than diminishing it,” according to the Blade. These include one assuring that there is no discrimination in jury service in the District of Columbia and one dealing with lending practices. Another requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to establish an initiative dealing with sex discrimination in the workplace.

One Democrat, however — Ben McAdams of Utah — submitted an amendment on religious freedom. His measure “reaffirms that the public accommodations provisions of this act do not apply to religious houses of worship, consistent with current law and practice,” the summary on the committee’s website states. The Equality Act says that church property is not considered a public accommodation if rentals of it are limited to members.

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