The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Equality Act Is a Time Bomb

Democratic leaders cheer as they gather to announce the introduction of the Equality Act in Washington, D.C., March 13, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The Equality Act (H.R. 5) passed the House on Friday. The sweeping legislation would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. But it goes further than that. Under the guise of anti-discrimination protections, the bill redefines sex to include gender identity, undermines religious freedom, gives males who identify as females the right to women’s spaces, and sets a dangerous political precedent for the medicalization of gender-confused youth.

“The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,” an administration official told the Washington Examiner last week.

Attempting to neutralize these “poison pills” in a congressional hearing prior to the vote, four Republican representatives offered amendments to the bill.

Representative Tom McClintock’s (R., Calif.) amendment would have ensured that the bill would not be “construed to require a health care provider to affirm the self-professed gender identity of a minor.” He explained why to National Review:

H.R. 5 is a dangerous attempt by the Democrats to use the force of government to bend biology and human nature to their ideological whims.  I’m not surprised that my amendment to ensure that physicians cannot be sued for exercising their professional medical judgment was rejected.  Viewed along with the rejection of my colleague’s amendment relating to protecting parents from being sued for discrimination for the act of parenting, the Democrats’ radical agenda is on full display in the House . . .

Representative Greg Steube’s (R., Fla.) amendment would have ensured that the act would not be construed to “require a biological female to face competition from a biological male in any sporting event.” He told National Review:

I offered this amendment to ensure that our daughters are provided an equal playing field in sports for generations to come, and that female athletes are not competing against male athletes for athletic scholarships and Title IX funding. I for one don’t think it’s fair—or equal—to make young, biological women compete against biological males. That’s why I introduced this amendment in committee and again to the full House.

Representative Mike Johnson’s (R.,La.) amendment would have ensured that the Act would not be “construed to deny a parent’s right to be involved in their minor child’s medical care.” He told National Review,

 . . . the so-called ‘Equality’ Act would actually eliminate sex-based protections for women by forcing rape crisis centers, lady’s locker rooms, female prisons, women’s sports leagues and other sex-based organizations to admit biological males. Additionally, this bill would eviscerate constitutionally protected rights by empowering the federal government to force employers, medical professionals, parents, business owners and all Americans to act in violation of their conscience. The federal government should not be able to dictate a belief system.

Representative Louie Gohmert’s (R.,Texas) amendment sought to restore the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which the current legislation explicitly nullifies.

All four amendments were rejected, signaling that the bill’s supporters intend for each of these outcomes to become federal law. One such supporter, representative David Cicillene (D.,R.I.), said,“What this bill does is to ensure that transgender people, including young people, are not harassed, or humiliated, or denied care because of their gender identity.”

But this, of course, is begging the question. Dismissing a vast and complex range of social and psychological problems a young person may be facing in relation to their gender, under the catch-all of “gender identity,” and under the assumption that affirmation therapy (social/chemical/surgical transition) is best for every child, severely damages the quality of medical evaluation and care that that young person can receive.

For what doctor is going to deny hormone treatments or surgeries to an adolescent seeking to have their self-professed gender identity “affirmed” at a medical center — regardless of the patient’s psychological or medical history and whether or not the doctor believes it is in their best interests — when federal law requires that they not be “denied care because of their gender identity”?

As Senator Mike Lee told National Review, the bill “would dangerously undermine the First Amendment and the freedoms it was designed to protect.”

While the Equality Act is unlikely to make it through the current Senate — and while the Trump administration rightly identifies its dangers — a future Democratic government could make it a priority. The Equality Act is an unconstitutional time bomb.

Madeleine Kearns is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute. She is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is a trained singer.

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