Our laws should protect the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of every citizen, no matter who they are. And every person should be treated with dignity and respect. But some groups are promoting legislation that would result in significant harm to some of the most vulnerable among us.
In recent years, government officials and others have used state and local laws to threaten Americans’ freedom. The laws are known as SOGI laws because they add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as new legally protected classifications.
They’re often put forth under the guise of “tolerance” or “inclusion.” But instead of advancing tolerance, when these laws have been adopted at the state and local level, they’ve actually created victims. By opening the door to government-mandated discrimination, inequality, and coercion, SOGI laws have stifled our growth toward a more welcoming and pluralistic nation.
It should come as no surprise, then, that in light of these laws’ mounting harmful consequences, all but one state have declined to enact them over the past decade. But rather than admit such legislation harms and violates Americans’ most basic rights and the best of our nation’s traditions, SOGI law proponents have doubled down and raised their efforts to a national scale.
Two federal proposals currently threaten freedom for all.
The Misnamed “Equality Act”
Some Members of Congress have introduced legislation – deceptively called the “Equality Act” – in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
Under the misleadingly titled “Equality Act”:
- Women and girls would be forced to forfeit hard-earned equality rights and opportunities;
- Children in our overloaded child welfare systems would face unprecedented obstacles to finding a loving home;
- Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers who are committed to upholding the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” would be forced out of our already-overloaded healthcare system, and patients would be subjected to ideologically driven and medically inappropriate treatments;
- People of goodwill who hold beliefs about marriage and human sexuality that the government doesn’t like would face government coercion and punishment; and
- Americans would be forced to surrender their constitutionally protected freedoms.
Rather than promoting a flourishing, diverse, and pluralistic society, the “Equality Act” would mandate federal government overreach and censorship of Americans from all walks of life. Here are just of few of the groups who would pay the price.
Impact on Women and Girls
Women and girls would suffer under this legislation because it would destroy the equality and opportunities women have worked so hard to achieve in education, athletics, and business. Rather than offering a step forward for women, it would nullify the opportunities previously guaranteed by federal legislation like Title IX, which provides women equal access to educational opportunities on the same basis as men. It would mandate that men who self-identify as women be allowed to compete as women, placing women at an unfair and significant disadvantage, and consequentially robbing them of a fair opportunity to compete, excel, and earn college scholarships.
The “Equality Act” would also allow men who identify as female to participate in business opportunities created exclusively for women, such as a Small Business Administration program that helps female entrepreneurs compete in the marketplace and launch new businesses.
The harms to women and girls don’t stop there. This legislation would also violate women’s privacy and dignity nationwide by forcing women’s only shelters and other private, intimate spaces, like locker rooms and restrooms, to be open to men. Women and girls should not be forced to sacrifice their privacy, dignity, and safety in this way.
Impact on Churches, Non-Profit Organizations, & Volunteers
The “Equality Act” would significantly threaten the many social service organizations who serve the most vulnerable among us every day. For example, it would forbid most employers and recipients of federal aid or funding from living out their beliefs about marriage or human sexuality.
The legislation would also deny federal financial aid to students at faith-based colleges and universities unless they abandon policies and practices reflecting their sincerely held beliefs about marriage and sexuality.
And it would forbid houses of worship from ensuring their clergy and other employees abide by their doctrines or beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and the distinction between the sexes.
Impact on Children and Parents
One of the most deeply concerning impacts of the Equality Act revolves around the most vulnerable among us: children in our nation’s child welfare system.
This legislation would harm these children, by forcing some adoption and foster care providers across the country to stop serving kids and ensuring they find a “forever family.”
The elimination of certain providers would also deprive birth moms of the opportunity to place their child in a home with a mom or a dad, or with a family who shares her faith or beliefs. It would deprive birth moms of a diversity of choices in the last decision she’ll ever get to make for her child.
The only reason a child welfare provider should ever be shut down is when every child has found a loving home. But this proposed legislation would eliminate valuable providers from an already overloaded system and stifle diversity and options for the children, birth moms, and families who need the support the most.
This legislation would also undermine the right of parents to direct their child’s education, particularly as it would require K-12 schools across the country to adopt harmful policies without even parental notification. Such policies include opening girls’ locker rooms and showers to boys who identify as
Of deep concern, it would prevent parents from implementing measured and commonsense steps – in accordance with appropriate medical practice – to help their child who is wrestling with his or her gender identity. It would simultaneously put parents at risk of having the government take their children away if the parents don’t think it’s in their child’s best interest to give them puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones.
Impact on the Business Community
The Equality Act would threaten small business owners who serve everyone but can’t express every message or celebrate every event. It would impose government-mandated uniformity of thought, conscience, and speech, including on very personal and foundational beliefs like marriage and human sexuality.
Notably, the U.S. Supreme Court has found there to be good faith differences of opinion on these matters. But this legislation would eviscerate the idea that every person should decide for herself what messages to speak or art to create, not the government.
The bill would also subject businesses to significant liability because it would require them to open up private, sex-specific spaces like locker rooms, dressing rooms, and restrooms to members of the opposite sex. This would force both their female employees and their female customers to share these private areas with men. Additionally, this legislation would likely force them to include puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and “sex reassignment” surgery in their employee health plans, often in violation of their convictions.
Impact on Medical Professionals
Health professionals take an oath to “do no harm.” And yet many doctors, counselors, and healthcare practitioners believe that prescribing puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex-reassignment surgery to otherwise healthy children who are struggling with their gender identity causes grave and often irreversible harm. If legislation like the Equality Act were enacted, these healthcare professionals would be forced to either violate their oath to care for patients in accordance with their best medical judgment, or leave the medical profession altogether.
Similarly, counselors could be prevented from offering counseling to those who want to live in harmony with their biological sex or their faith’s teachings on human sexuality. Every person should be free to make positive life choices and have options when they seek a counselor. This law would take that option away from patients across the country who want a counselor whom they can trust to help them achieve their goals.
Impact on Religious Freedom Protections
The Equality Act takes aim at religious freedom itself. If adopted, it would partially repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law that passed with nearly unanimous support and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Religious freedom ensures that every person has the right to explore life’s deepest questions and to live consistent with those convictions in private andin the public square. Partially gutting a longstanding law that simply ensures the government does not impermissibly infringe on Americans’ freedom to live, work, learn, and speak consistent with their sincerely held beliefs runs counter to our nation’s commitment to tolerance and inclusivity.
The So-Called “Fairness for All” Proposal
Proponents of a new proposal called “Fairness for All” claim to offer a middle ground. They believe that Congress will eventually adopt a nationwide SOGI law and they argue that, rather than opposing such harmful legislation, those who desire freedom for allshould content themselves with defending freedom for some. Specifically, while they propose an exemption for some religious organizations, they maintain that a majority of Americans—in business, public schools, and public life—should be required to surrender their constitutionally-protected freedoms.
But a closer look reveals that their idea is ill conceived, unfair, and wholly incapable of achieving its aims.
These “exemptions” set apart a small number of groups to enjoy the most basic of First Amendment protections, while stripping fundamental rights from everyone else. Thus, such a law would actually empower government officials to target viewpoints with which they disagree.
The deceptively named Equality Act and the Fairness for All proposal would guarantee inequality and create countless victims.
If we desire a free and tolerant society, we must work to ensure the government protects every person’s constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.