Equality Act Will Become Law or Die in the Senate
By John Mitchell
As February drew to a close the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a controversial piece of legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal statutes. According to the congressional summary, House Resolution 5 “prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system.”
The Heritage Foundation looked at the Equality Act’s potential impact on children and has four major concerns:
- The federal government could mandate inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public school curriculum. While some individual states have already started down this road, the Equality Act could require it in every state and district.
- Schools could be required to “allow students who identify as transgender to access the opposite sex’s restrooms, locker rooms, and showers,” and “allow biological males to compete on girls’ sports teams, where they have a clear physical advantage.” This issue has caused many otherwise liberal advocates for women’s athletics to oppose the act.
- Medical providers could be required “to perform irreversible gender-transition procedures on minors, regardless of conscientious objection or best medical judgment.”
- “Faith-based adoption and foster care providers will risk losing federal funds if they decline to place children with same-sex couples.” And “Prospective foster parents could also be required to affirm a foster child’s stated gender identity and barred from any efforts to help a child with gender dysphoria accept his or her body.”
Joe Carter, Editor for the Gospel Coalition, raises a different way the LGBTQ agenda may be impacting our youth. In an interesting article Carter explains a recent Gallup poll that documents an increase from 3.5% to 5.6% over the past decade in young Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Carter says, “Social contagion and normalization of homosexuality have combined to make the younger, highly susceptible, and credulous generations believe they should identify as LGBTQ.” This phenomenon could also explain what is known as rapid onset gender dysphoria that many parents have observed particularly among post pubescent girls. LGBTQ advocates argue with this and say that the rise in youth identification as LGBTQ is a reflection that there have always been more individuals in these categories, they have just been reluctant to admit it. Carter does not raise this explanation in the context of the Equality Act, but It does seem to follow that passage of the act would contribute to the normalization of LGBTQ relationships causing more youth to fall into this particular sexual sin.
Carter also points out that the best antidote for “peer contagion,” is parents helping their children pick the “right group of peers,” and that “another key to fighting peer contagion is to dilute the effect of peers with intergenerational influences.” This is one reason why it is so important for Christians to work in the public schools. Even though in most situations it is inappropriate for Christian teachers to share their faith with students, it is very appropriate for them to serve as role models and at times mentor students who come to them with questions. In this fallen world our students need as many caring Christians around them as possible.
The Equality Act also passed the House in 2019 but could not pass the 60-vote hurdle needed to break a Senate filibuster and proceed to final passage. Even if the bill passed the Senate, it was clear that President Trump would veto it. However, the political dynamic has shifted significantly since then.
It is still unlikely that the bill will garner enough support in the Senate to receive the sixty votes needed to break a Senate filibuster. However, if the 60-vote filibuster rule were changed (which would only take fifty votes plus the Vice President’s tie breaking vote), the fifty Senate Democrats would probably support the bill and Vice President Harris would certainly cast a tie breaking vote if needed to pass the measure. This even split in the Senate has focused the spotlight on Senator Manchin (D-WV) who, before the election, said he would not vote with his fellow Democrats to do away with the Senate filibuster rule. However, recent interviews on Sunday news shows indicate that Manchin is considering making changes to the filibuster rule to make it “more painful,” for Republicans to impose the 60-vote hurdle. He said, “If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk.” Manchin is suggesting a return to the days when a Senator could only maintain a filibuster as long as he or she was willing to continue speaking on the Senate floor. This could lead to more oratory like Jimmy Stewart’s passionate speech from the 1939 Hollywood classic, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” But in today’s hyper-partisan environment even Jimmy Stewart passing out on the floor of the Senate would not likely stop passage of the Equality Act.
Not all Christians are opposed to the Equality Act. Several mainline protestant denominations including the Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and United Methodist Church have come out in support of the bill. The Religious News Service reports some other religious institutions are pushing for changes to the bill because, “houses of worship, like churches and synagogues, must be explicitly excluded from the public accommodations list, otherwise religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage might be forced to offer their fellowship halls to LGBTQ wedding ceremonies, for example.” To address these specific concerns compromise legislation has been introduced as the “Fairness for All Act.” Such compromise legislation may protect pastors, churches and religious institutions but will do nothing to protect an individual Christian’s religious freedom to profess and practice the very beliefs preached and taught by these institutions. As Justice Alito wrote in his dissent to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in all fifty states:
I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.
It will be a shame if Justice Alito’s dire prediction becomes established in law with the support of our churches.
Typically, CEAI does not take any position on pending legislation, however this bill is so concerning that in a recent “In the Know” email, CEAI Executive Director David Schmus encouraged members to write their Senators regarding the Equality Act. You may also want to share concerns about the Fairness for All Act. You can find contact information for your Senators at Contact Senators and you can find some tips on writing your Senators and Representatives here.
Please share your thoughts on this column that you would like other readers to see by entering them in the form below. Personal comments can be sent to JMitchell@ceai.org. John Mitchell is the Washington, D.C. Area Director for Christian Educators Association International.
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Washington Education Watch 3/2021. Used with permission.