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Congress to consider Equality Act, expansion of definition of ‘sex’ under civil rights protections

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled for a floor vote on a controversial bill titled the Equality Act. This legislation, filed as H.R. 5, seeks to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. House leadership is expected to bring these sweeping changes to the Civil Rights Act to the floor for a vote without holding a single committee hearing, debate or amendment process.

Messengers to the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” But the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission argues.

Religious liberty

This bill would substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. As written, the bill would essentially gut the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), forcing faith-based child welfare organizations to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down by the state.

Women and girls

The proposed bill also undermines civil rights protections for women and girls. Single gender spaces, such as locker rooms or shelters, would no longer be protected by law. This departure from a legal understanding of gender as male and female makes women and girls vulnerable to biological males being in their private spaces. For example, shelters for those women and girls escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female.

This legislation would also pose a threat to women and girls in athletics and academics. Since 1972, Title IX has advanced women’s sports and scholarship in remarkable ways. If enacted, the Equality Act would threaten female competition as both areas would then be open to biological males as well.

Pro-life concerns

The Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress. H.R. 5 would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. H.R. 5 would also jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion.

What’s next?

The bill is expected to pass the House of Representatives this week. However, 60 votes are required to overcome the filibuster in the Senate, which would bring the bill to a vote. In its current form, H.R. 5 would likely fall short of this threshold.

Last Congress, the Equality Act passed in the House, but the bill died in the Senate.

To read more about the Equality Act, go to https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/what-is-the-equality-act. (ERLC)