WASHINGTON — Under the guise of equality, a bill passed the United States House on Friday that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to federal civil rights law, and would preclude entities — including Christian organizations and others who do not want to participate in affirming sinful behavior — from living out their convictions in society without the heavy hand of government coming down upon them.
H.R. 5, also known as the “Equality Act,” passed mostly along party lines with a vote of 236 -173, and with no Democrats voting against it. Eight Republicans voted in favor of the measure, with three being from New York: Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Will Hurd of Texas, Greg Walden of Oregon, and John Katko, Tom Reed and Elise Stefanik, all of New York.
The bill would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act — which currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” — to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list. The two terms would be included as pertaining to matters of “sex” discrimination.
“[D]iscrimination against a married same-sex couple could be based on the sex stereotype that marriage should only be between heterosexual couples, the sexual orientation of the two individuals in the couple, or both,” the legislation, introduced in March by Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, reads in part. “Discrimination against a pregnant lesbian could be based on her sex, her sexual orientation, her pregnancy, or on the basis of multiple factors.”
The measure enumerates a number of areas where lawmakers seek to end perceived discrimination, including in foster care and adoption, as well as in the provision of health services.
“Although same-sex couples are 7 times more likely to foster or adopt than their different-sex counterparts, many child placing agencies refuse to serve same-sex couples and LGBTQ individuals,” the bill reads. “Barring discrimination in foster care and adoption will increase the number of homes available to foster children waiting for foster and adoptive families.”
It also states that the prohibition on discrimination also relates to an “establishment that provides health care, accounting, or legal services,” as well as other industries, meaning that physicians cannot decline to assist those who desire sex change-related services, and accountants and attorneys cannot turn down filing joint taxes for homosexual households or providing legal representation.
The legislation further expresses that “[t]he discredited practice known as ‘conversion therapy’ is a form of discrimination that harms LGBTQ people by undermining individuals sense of self worth, increasing suicide ideation and substance abuse, exacerbating family conflict, and contributing to second class status.”
Most commonly, the bill prohibits discrimination in employment and housing, meaning that faith-based employers, Christian schools and churches cannot fire an individual for engaging in same-sex behavior, nor can landlords with convictions about marriage decline to rent to two men or women. Women’s shelters would also not be permitted to turn away men who identify as women.
As previously reported, a Christian-based women’s shelter in Alaska filed suit in November after it was placed under investigation by the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission for declining to admit a man who identifies as a woman as the shelter was not accepting any new guests at the time.
A Christian-owned and operated foster and adoption agency likewise sued the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) after it was given the ultimatum to either change its policies and allow placement in same-sex homes or close its doors. It lost its bid for an injunction in federal court this week.
Several lawsuits have been filed in recent years against faith-based hospitals that have declined to allow the performance of sex-change related operations on the premises — mainly women who sought the removal of their uterus so that they would feel more masculine physically. See here, here, and here.
The U.S. Supreme Court also recently accepted an appeal involving a Christian-owned funeral home that terminated an employee after he announced that he wanted to begin dressing as a woman while on the job. The case, in which funeral home owner Thomas Rost was sued by the former employee, similarly surrounds civil rights law and whether the term sex includes “gender identity” or “sex stereotyping.”
Rost had argued in court that he “sincerely believes that he would be violating God’s commands if he were to pay for or otherwise permit one of RG’s funeral directors to wear the uniform for members of the opposite sex while at work.”
The Equality Act proposed in Congress to specify the meaning of sex specifically states that religion cannot be cited to protect one’s actions if sued, outlining, “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”
The bill has therefore generated objection from Christians and lawmakers alike.
“H.R. 5 is bad for freedom,” Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla., told the Washington Times. “It would immediately expose churches to ‘legal liability’ for simply following their earnest beliefs.”
“[T]he so-called ‘Equality Act’ that the House has passed … 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,” also remarked Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of the U.S. legal division of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“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,” she said.
The bill now heads to the Senate, but it is unclear whether or not Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will allow the proposal to come up for a vote.
According to NBC News, President Trump opposes the measure as written because it provides no protections for people of faith.
“The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all,” an unidentified official told the outlet. “However, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.”
Read the text of the Equality Act in full here.
Micah 2:1 states, “Woe to them that devise iniquity and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practice it because it is in the power of their hand.”
Psalm 119:136 laments, “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes because they keep not Thy law.”
Proverbs 16:12 also teaches, “It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness, for the throne is established by righteousness.”