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Say no to the Equality Act

| Tuesday, March 9, 2021

On Feb. 24, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the Equality Act. Supported by President Biden, the bill seeks to amend current civil rights law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. If passed, the Equality Act would be the most systematic attack on the proper application of sexual difference to the public sphere in America’s history and would severely infringe on the right of the Church and her faithful to conduct themselves in accordance with the moral law.

Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 uses an expansive interpretation of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce to prohibit discrimination and segregation in places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, theatres, and stadiums. The Equality Act would add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and would drastically expand the list of covered facilities to include “any establishment that provides a good, service, or program.” In effect, this would force all businesses to provide services that promote practices in conflict with Church teaching such as homosexual “marriage” and transgenderism. Expect to see more cases like that of Colorado cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, who has been sued for refusing to design cakes for the reception of a gay “wedding” and a transgender-themed birthday. Charitable services would also be threatened. Beginning in Massachusetts in 2006, Catholic Charities adoption services across the country–guided by the principle that a child ought to have a mother and a father–have closed their doors in response to laws that would require them to place children with homosexual couples. Under the guise of inclusion, the Equality Act attempts to force people to commit actions against the moral law and would ostracize from public life those whose conceptions of marriage and sexuality stray from the orthodoxy of secular culture.

The Equality Act’s proposed amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would also end sex-segregated facilities. Section 1101 of the bill makes its intention clear: “an individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.” The need for bodily privacy in public facilities is obvious. “I don’t want a man in the bathroom with me,” says Alexis Lightcap, a young woman who added her name to a lawsuit challenging the policy of the Boyertown Area, Pennsylvania, School District allowing individuals into restrooms for the gender they identify with. Describing her reaction to seeing a biological male in the restroom, she states, “My body went into immediate shock. I immediately ran out.” The Equality Act’s definition of “gender identity” is so broad as to not even require a formal “transition” to the opposite sex. It is easy to see how predatory men could take advantage of these provisions to harm women in shared facilities.

The Equality Act would also destroy women’s sports. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was passed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions receiving federal financial assistance. Expanding these protections to gender identity, which the Equality Act does by amending Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, would require federally funded schools to accept men who identify as women onto women’s sports teams. Given men’s naturally superior physical strength, the consequences of such a policy would be disastrous. The elimination of sex-segregated facilities and sports are two of the reasons the Woman’s Liberation Front, a left-wing Feminist Organization, opposes the bill. Speaking at a panel hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation in 2019, Kara Dansky, a WoLF board member, lays out the core problem with protections of gender identity: “The Equality Act… is an unmitigated disaster for women and girls. It is not possible to both enshrine gender identity in civil rights law and protect women and girls as a distinct legal category at the same time.”

Although the Equality Act does not once mention abortion, the bill lays the groundwork for increasing funding for the taking of unborn human life through crafty legal maneuvering, as elegantly explained by the USCCB in a two-page backgrounder. The act defines “sex” to include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition,” and includes as a rule that “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition shall not receive less favorable treatment than other physical conditions.” Current civil rights statues prohibiting sex discrimination, such as Title VII (employment discrimination) of the Civil Rights Act, include explicit language stating that they do not require individuals to facilitate access to abortion. The Equality Act could allay any fears that it might expand abortion access by including similar language, but it does not. Instead, it leaves open the possibility that its prohibitions on “sex” discrimination in public accommodations (including medical establishments) or federal funding be interpreted to require the government to provide abortions and medical institutions to perform them.

As America’s premier institution of Catholic higher education, Notre Dame has an important obligation to defend the Church’s teachings and the rights of her faithful in the public sphere. The Equality Act is an egregious assault on life, human sexuality, marriage and religious liberty. In 2019, Fr. Jenkins issued a praiseworthy condemnation of New York’s new abortion law. As the public debates over the merits of Congress’s new civil rights proposals, the University should similarly lend her voice on these important moral issues.

Adam Morys, ND College Republicans


Mar. 8

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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