Home Christian News Explainer: What You Need to Know About the Equality Act

Explainer: What You Need to Know About the Equality Act

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention says the Equality Act would “undermine decades of civil-rights protections for women,” “gut” the RFRA, and “punish faith-based charities” on the basis of their religious and moral beliefs. Women’s privacy and safety are at risk, it says, because biological men who identify as female would be legally permitted to use areas designated for females. Sports and educational programs also could be affected, it notes, putting Title IX protections in jeopardy.

The Equality Act, adds the ERLC, “would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress.” Pro-life health care workers could no longer morally object to participating in abortions, and the Hyde Amendment (which prevents federal funds from going toward abortions) could be in jeopardy.

Ryan Andersen, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes, “Rather than finding common-sense, narrowly tailored ways to shield LGBT-identifying Americans from truly unjust discrimination, the bill would act as a sword—to persecute those who don’t embrace newfangled gender ideologies.” Among the legislation’s “Orwellian” features, he says, is that it “treats any refusal to offer abortion as ‘pregnancy’ discrimination.”

Law professor Douglas Laycock, who supports same-sex marriage and some federal LGBT anti-discrimination statutes, says the Equality Act “protects the rights of one side but attempts to destroy the rights of the other side.”

Graham, ADF Also Oppose the Bill

In a Facebook post, evangelist Franklin Graham calls the Equality Act “just a smokescreen to force Americans to accept the LGBTQ agenda.” Instead of promoting equality, he adds, it “creates a lot of INEQUALITY” for people of faith, punishing anyone who cites moral objections.

“God made us male and female, and that’s it,” writes Graham. “With some 6,000 years of human history, it has only been in the last few years that people have come up with all of these additional designations for gender identity.” He urges Christians to contact national and local politicians to express concern about this “very dangerous bill.”

During a recent webinar, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) warned about the Equality Act’s risks to faith-based groups, including churches, religious schools, and nonprofit organizations. Gregory Baylor, ADF senior counsel, says the bill’s wording “doesn’t rule out the possibility that a religious school or even a church in some of its functions might be deemed to be a place of public accommodation.” Hiring practices, admissions standards, codes of conduct, and living arrangements all could be impacted, he says, adding, “There’s no silver bullet to getting around this if it becomes law.”

J.D. Mesnard, ADF government relations vice president, says the Equality Law is “far more extreme” than current state-level or municipal anti-discrimination laws. Even if the legislation doesn’t pass the Senate, he warns, “pretty significant pieces of it” could eventually be included in other bills, “especially budget bills.”

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 28 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her family.