Last month the House passed the Equality Act (H.R. 5). For those unaware, this important legislation would amend existing civil rights laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to include sexual orientation, and gender identity as protected characteristics under law. The bill also expands federal non-discrimination protections regarding discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity in public settings, and protects against sex-based discrimination in government services and federally-funded programs.
Last week, the Senate held its first ever hearing on the Equality Act and as expected, the debate was heated. It seems opponents of the bill (Senate Republicans) are promoting several misconceptions about its purpose and scope which include:
“The Equality Act would destroy religious freedom in this country.”
NOT TRUE. Freedom of religion is already protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Nothing in the Equality Act would change that. The bill simply extends those rights that most vulnerable groups are already afforded to those who have been denied them, such as the LGBTQ community. In fact, the bill actually protects freedom of religion by preventing the imposing of one’s religion upon another.
“The Equality Act will make athletics unfair for females.”
NOT TRUE. Schools across the nation already have policies in place to ensure a level playing field for all students, and they are working. Additionally, except for a very small percentage, most students who participate in high school sports do not continue on with their athletic endeavours after high school. The possibility that perhaps one or two transgender students in an entire student body would ruin that opportunity for another is almost nonexistent. Title IX is extremely important in regards to girls athletics, and the bottom line is that nothing in the Equality Act changes that. Instead, we should be calling for increased funding for girls athletics.
“The Equality Act will allow men to harass women in public restrooms.”
NOT TRUE. We already have laws in place to prevent such acts, and the Equality Act does nothing to change that. Additionally, 21 states have had similar nondiscrimination laws on the books for decades now and they have worked, as there have been no increases in public safety incidents in bathrooms since they were codified.
It is important that we dispel these untrue myths about this legislation, which seeks only to provide the same protections that most of us already are afforded to those who are not. We must always push back against these false narratives whenever they are presented. Only by doing so will we be able to do away with the myths and focus on the facts of the issue, which is equal treatment under the law for everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual identity, or sexual orientation.
If you would like to contact your Senators in Washington to tell them that you would appreciate their support of the Equality Act, you can do so by clicking the link provided below. We are closer than we have ever been before, and now is the time to voice your support!