Politics & Policy

Against the Equality Act

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks about the Equality Act in Washington, D.C., March 13, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The Equality Act, which passed the House in 2019 then stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, is set to pass in the House today. It is a misnomer and a travesty.

The bill would add to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity,” each of which is categorically distinct from one another and each of which is, more to the point, radically different in origin, nature, and prevalence to the historic problem of racism in the United States.

The Equality Act would redefine sex to include “gender identity,” thus forcing every federally funded entity — most notably schools and colleges — to treat males who declare transgender status as if they were females. It would stamp out religious exemptions by regulating religious nonprofits and even goes so far as to block the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from applying to its provisions. And it would, as National Review’s John McCormack has explained, greatly expand “the number of businesses that count as ‘public accommodations’ under the Civil Rights Act.”

It is neither proportionate nor desirable to use the full weight of the federal government against every injustice, real or imagined. But the bill’s drafters are transparently exploiting the association with a historic bill fighting racial discrimination in order to smuggle in false equivalences and unsupportable claims.

For instance, the bill states that “transgender people have half the homeownership rate of non-transgender people and about 1 in 5 transgender people experience homelessness.” This is alarming, certainly, but what proof is there that the predominant cause for this is discrimination? Psychiatrists and psychologists in the field of gender dysphoria have long observed that, even in instances of social acceptance, mental health co-morbidities are high among this population.

Moral platitudes are similarly deployed to smooth over the bill’s shortcomings. President Biden — whose administration endorsed the Equality Act, and who promised during his campaign to sign it into law within 100 days of office — says that “every person should be treated with dignity and respect.” And who could object? Actually, many people could when “dignity and respect” are hijacked to include a legal requirement to treat men as though they are women in various contexts that would grossly disadvantage females.

The law’s drafters assert that “many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals often continue to face discrimination, harassment, and violence at work, at school, and in public accommodations,” yet rely largely on an activist definition of “discrimination, harassment, and violence” that would be unrecognizable to any reasonable person.

Is it “discrimination” to insist that young men do not compete against women in sports, for instance? Is it “harassment” to refuse to use — out of conscience or good grammar — newly invented speech codes (“call me they/them”)? Is it “violence” to insist that men who undergo “sex change” genital surgery are still, biologically speaking, men? The bill’s most ardent supporters and lobbyists think so.

Moreover, the cultural effect of adding the most outlandish tenets of identity politics to the legacy of anti-racism will be to chill speech and bypass debate on important and complex issues. We are seeing this already, for instance, in Amazon’s decision this week to remove conservative scholar Ryan Anderson’s thoughtful critique of transgender ideology. Amazon didn’t even bother to explain its decision. Such is the prevailing moral certainty.

Again, this is not to say that sexual minorities or transgender-identified persons don’t experience genuine injustice. Rather, it is to insist that such discrimination is not comparable to the “persistent, pervasive and widespread” evil of racism that Congress was asked to prohibit in 1964, and so does not warrant the same response from the federal government. Ultimately, what the Equality Act represents is a cynical attempt to use the Civil Rights Act as a Trojan horse for radical leftist social orthodoxies. Such a law would cause far more injustice than it would prevent.


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