Now that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Equality Act, far-right groups are ramping up their already extreme rhetoric on the horrors they believe the LGBTQ rights measure will visit upon the nation.
They're saying the legislation, which sailed through the House Friday but will likely have a hard time getting through the Senate, will threaten religious freedom, women's rights, and the traditional family.
"This is an all-out assault on parental rights, on the family, and on the millions of people of faith in this country," said a statement issued by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
"The legislation goes far beyond just quarantining faith behind the four walls of a house of worship. This act quarantines faith within your mind and says that's where it must stay. It creates a world that punishes those who exercise their freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs. No institution or person of faith, be it a school, church, synagogue, mosque, business, or non-profit will escape its Orwellian reach."
Perkins based his argument on the fact that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not provide an exemption from compliance with the Equality Act. However, since the Equality Act amends existing laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the religious exemptions built into those laws will stand. Also, the act would not regulate what ministers could preach or force them to perform any ceremony conflicting with their faith, and church properties would be exempt from its public accommodations provision as long as they were made available only to members of the faith, not the general public.
Penny Nance, president and CEO of the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, claimed the Equality Act endangers women because of its inclusion of transgender people, although she didn't use that term.
"Today the U.S. House of Representatives tragically failed to protect women and girls," said a statement from Nance. "Speaker Pelosi's deceptively-named 'Equality Act' gives any man civil rights protections to claim he is a woman, at any time and for any reason. It erases Title IX fairness in sports and female safety and privacy rights in bathrooms, locker rooms, and women's shelters. Today's vote betrays women."
She ignored, of course, that transgender-inclusive public accommodations policies have not been linked to any increase in crime, and that trans female athletes do not necessarily have an advantage over cisgender females, as the right often likes to contend.
Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the Alliance Defending Freedom's U.S. legal division, issued a statement making the same easily debunked arguments as Perkins and Nance. "Laws should respect the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of every citizen, but the so-called 'Equality Act' that the House has passed fails to meet this essential standard," she said. "It undermines women's equality by denying female athletes fair competition in sports, depriving women of business opportunities designed for them, and forcing them to share private, intimate spaces with men who identify as female. Like similar state and local laws, it would also force Americans to participate in events and speak messages that violate their core beliefs, all in the name of an 'equality' that tolerates no dissenters.
"Many activists want to con Americans into believing that disagreement on important matters such as marriage and human sexuality is a form of discrimination that requires the government to enforce one view over another, but that is obviously wrong. This bill undermines human dignity by threatening the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience that the First Amendment guarantees for every citizen."
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, joined in the alarmist rhetoric. "No one who voted for the misnamed 'Equality Act' deserves to serve in Congress," he said in a press release that pointedly highlighted the eight Republicans who supported the measure. "This bill destroys the fundamental religious freedom on which America was founded. This bill is unpatriotic and dangerous. The misnamed 'Equality Act' has nothing to do with equality and is the most serious threat to life and liberty ever proposed by Congress. This bill needs to be stopped in the Senate. If this bill becomes law, the consequences are staggering."
Believe it or not, that's actually toned down a little from an action alert Staver sent out Tuesday. The subject line on it was "A Matter of Life and Death," and in it he said the recent school shooting in Highlands Ranch, Colo., was "an example of the life or death consequences that would be further pushed" by the Equality Act. According to Staver, that's because one of the accused shooters is transgender (or, as he put it, "confused" and in "rebellion against God").
But as fact-checking site Snopes notes, it's unknown whether the suspect's gender identity had anything to do with the shooting, and, at any rate, most transgender people do not commit mass shootings. That doesn't keep people like Staver from demonizing them, however.