On the campaign trail, Joe Biden identified the bill as a top legislative priority and referred to it as “historic.” He named trans rights “the civil rights issue of our time,” as if there were no reason to perhaps tread a bit more cautiously.
igualmente, la medios de comunicación’s celebratory coverage of the House action ignored very real countervailing interests that would be steamrolled by the act, namely people of faith’s ability to live, work and act publicly in ways consistent with their deepest religious convictions.
It would behoove the president, as his first bold act of presidential leadership, to reconsider his reflexive support for the Equality Act and to put his presidential weight behind changes that would honor ambos the rights of the LGBTQ community and the genuine faith convictions that are often in tension with those rights.
It is hard to imagine a weightier and more significant policy conflict. The reality is that both religious convictions and sexual identity are spheres of profound importance, whence people derive ultimate meaning for their lives.
LGBTQ persons rightly wish to have their full membership in society codified in antidiscrimination laws, something that is absent in federal civil rights laws and in many states. Similarly those with traditional faith-derived views on sexuality, family and marriage feel compelled by their beliefs to live in obedience to the transcendent.
One cannot overstate how consequential and far-reaching this clash is as a matter of law and policy. It implicates LGBTQ access to health care and workplace and housing protections, as well as the ability of faith-based schools, small businesses and nonprofits to hire folks and institute policies that align with their theological convictions.
Given the intensity of the political and legal conflict, it is regrettable that it has thus far been waged as a zero-sum game, pitting the competing interests against each other in highly divisive, winner-take-all ways. That polarization is evident in the relevant state laws.
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws that offer additional LGBTQ protections, with nary a nod to the impact on the religious interests at stake. About the same number of states have religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs) that bolster religious liberty, even in the absence of LGBTQ civil rights protections.
The Equality Act only doubles down on this zero-sum politics. While it takes the long overdue step of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights laws, it makes no effort to acknowledge the interests on the other side and is an aggressive attempt to crush faith convictions as an authentic source of behavior in public life.
Primero, it broadens the definition of covered “public accommodations” far beyond the conventional meaning of the term, so dramatically that religious schools and faith-based nonprofits will likely fall within its ambit.