WASHINGTON, DC, Apr 2 — The House of Representatives passed the so-called Equality Act in February, and it is now up for consideration in the Senate. The legislation purports to ensure that people cannot be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. But, as opponents point out, it would allow discrimination based on religious orientation.
Brad Polumbo put it this way: “From my vantage point as a gay conservative, I can see that the Equality Act goes too far for any level-headed gay rights advocate to support, and its blatant disregard for the basic right to religious freedom is appalling. The bill purports to protect LGBT Americans like me by prohibiting 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.'”
Polumbo is not the only one who fears the rarely reported consequences of the Equality Act and the impact it could have on the First Amendment right to practice one’s religion. Such questions come to mind: Would priests and ministers be forced to perform same-sex marriages? Would right-to-life doctors and nurses be prosecuted for refusing to perform abortions?
Bob Carlstrom, president of AMAC Action, the senior advocacy arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens, says that “the right of Americans to practice their faith is a God-given right, sacredly protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; it is hubris, at best, that prompts those who would undermine that right.”
Carlstrom notes that the Equality Act would challenge the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. He says it would put faith-based institutions in jeopardy should they not adhere to the proposed laws telling them what they can and cannot do as a religious institution.
Pastor John Smith of the Evergreen Baptist Church in Cashmere, WA, described how potentially devastating it could be should the Equality Act become law in an Opinion article recently. “any pastor who opens up their Bible and reads Romans 1:26-27 and calls homosexuality sinful, or Genesis 1:27 where only two genders are identified, would be charged for inciting hatred to the LGBTQ+ community and will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. And if you Christian, slip up and don’t use an individual’s preferred pronouns, you could lose your job or worse.”
President Tim Schultz of 1st Amendment Partnership warns that the Equality Act would have a burdensome impact on religious schools and faith-based associations, opening them up to lawsuits from gay and transgender groups.
“There would be an effort to punitively sue them into oblivion,” he says. Schultz also cautions the Equality Act “seeks to weaken the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law aimed at ensuring that the government won’t substantially burden someone’s religious exercise unless it has a compelling interest to do so and can’t find a less restrictive way to protect that interest. If the Equality Act passes, religiously affiliated schools, businesses, nonprofits, and others would have a harder time defending themselves in court.”
However, the efforts to pass the Equality Act may not be strong enough to succeed should unlikely opponents to the legislation such as Democrat, feminist, and LGBTQ activist Kara Dansky come forth. She told CBS News, “If the bill is permitted to go through it would redefine the word sex to mean gender identity and that has grave consequences for women and girls. We’re gravely concerned about spaces – locker rooms, changing rooms, dormitories; we’re concerned about the material consequences of eradicating the category ‘female’ from the law.”
CBS also interviewed Brad Polumbo, who concluded that “a lot of more level-headed gay rights activists like myself recognize that a bill that erases the rights of religious liberty of conservative and religious Americans is not what tolerance and equality actually looks like. I think you can have a law; you can have an approach that bolsters anti-discrimination laws but doesn’t trample over the rights of religious Americans.”
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