Extremist U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has gone on several unhinged rants against the Equality Act, claiming the LGBTQ+ rights legislation would protect pedophiles, destroy women’s rights, and undermine “God’s creation.”
Greene, a Republican freshman from Georgia who has supported QAnon conspiracy theories but recently walked that back, has posted several tweets about the act and spoken against it in the House of Representatives. The House is scheduled to vote on it this week, likely Thursday, and it has just been introduced in the Senate.
In tweeting the pedophile claim, Greene referenced John Weaver, a cofounder of the Lincoln Project, a group made up largely of current and former Republicans who opposed Donald Trump. Weaver has been accused of sending inappropriate, sexually aggressive messages to young men, some under the age of consent. He is no longer with the organization.
If the act becomes law, it will, of course, not protect pedophiles, as pedophilia is a crime. It will ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity nationwide in employment, housing, public accommodations, and numerous other aspects of life.
In her speech on the House floor, Greene contended, “God created us male and female. In his image, he created us. The Equality Act that we are to vote on this week destroys God’s creation. It also completely annihilates women’s rights and religious freedoms. It can be handled completely different to stop discrimination without destroying women’s rights, little girls’ rights in sports, and religious freedom, violating everything we hold dear in God’s creation.”
Greene’s claims about women’s rights (and sports) derive from the act’s support for equal rights for transgender Americans, although it does not explicitly address sports. Anti-trans activists contend that trans girls and women have an inherent and unfair advantage over cisgender females and shouldn’t be allowed to compete alongside them in school sports; advocates for trans inclusion argue that allegations of this advantage are unfounded. The Department of Justice has just withdrawn support for a lawsuit in Connecticut that seeks to bar trans females from girls’ sports; the support had come under the Trump administration.
As far as the act’s effect on religious practice, it would make clear that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 could not be used to justify discrimination. But religious institutions could still give preference to members of their own faith when hiring, and if they rent spaces only to members, they would be exempt from antidiscrimination laws — not, however, if they rent to the general public.
The House passed the Equality Act in 2019 with most Democrats voting for it and most Republicans against it. It never came to a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, but supporters are hoping for a better outcome this time, as the Senate is split 50-50 between the parties and Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote.
However, it would still take the support of 60 senators to end debate on it and move to a vote unless the Senate gets rid of the legislative filibuster, something its lead sponsor in the chamber, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, told the Washington Blade he is open to. President Joe Biden has said he wants the act passed and sent to him to sign during his first 100 days in office.
Certain Republican senators who sometimes stray from the party line have been lukewarm about the Equality Act. Mitt Romney of Utah has said he will not support it because he thinks it does not protect religious freedom. Susan Collins of Maine has said she would not cosponsor the bill because revisions she wanted were not made, but she has not said what those revisions are. And several Republican House members have denounced its trans-inclusive provisions.
Greene has introduced amendments to the act to address her objections, although these amendments will probably go nowhere in the Democratic-controlled House. She has also moved for Congress to adjourn so as not to vote on the bill, another attempt that is likely doomed. She was recently stripped of her committee positions because of her support for theories advanced by the anonymous internet user QAnon, such as the idea that prominent politicians are engaged in sex trafficking of children and that mass shootings have been staged to rally support for gun regulations. She backtracked on her endorsement of such theories, but many of her critics found her apology halfhearted and disingenuous.