The Equality Act Strikes Before Becoming Law

Alaska Airlines Jet at Gate with Rainbow Sky

Two Alaskan Airlines employees were fired for questioning the airline’s support of H.R. 5 – The Equality Act. The two employees did not ask hateful questions but wanted to know if Alaskan thinks “it’s possible to regulate morality,” and another asked if Alaska supported “endangering the Church, encouraging suppression of religious freedom, obliterating women rights and parental rights?”[1] First Liberty Institute is representing the employees as it is a flagrant violation of state and federal laws to discriminate against an employee because of their religious beliefs,[2] but this is the danger the Equality Act poses if passed.

The Equality Act has been looming in U.S. politics for the last several years and passed the House in March of this year. Due to this, I wrote to my senators asking them to vote no if and when the measure is taken up in the Senate.

Proponents of the resolution claim the Equality Act will protect LBGTQIA+ individuals from being discriminated against for employment, housing, segregation in schools, and other areas of life.[3] I fully support efforts to curb legitimate discrimination in our society and treat everyone with respect and dignity. Yet, H.R. 5 in its current form will lead to discrimination against citizen’s First Amendment protections under the U.S. Constitution and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). According to the Congressional Research Service, “The Equality Act (H.R. 5), passed by the House in the 116th Congress, would explicitly waive RFRA’s application to that statute by providing that RFRA ‘shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.'”[4]

By waiving the RFRA, the Equality Act would push Christians and other faith groups into compromising their constitutionally protected beliefs or be vulnerable to life-ruining financial and criminal penalties.[5] As the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission testified before the U.S. Senate on March 17, 2021, the Equality Act may:

  1. “Bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom.”
  2. “Would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress.”
  3. “Undermines decades of hard-fought civil rights protections for women and girls.”
  4. “Would force faith-based child welfare organizations to either abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down.”
  5. “Disregards the privacy and safety concerns” of women by removing legal protections for single-sex spaces such as locker rooms and shelters.[6]

Not only are these issues profoundly concerning but H.R. 5 may force medical professionals to perform procedures contrary to their religious convictions and may remove parental rights in choosing medical care for their children.[7]

The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. called H.R. 5 “the most significant threat to religious liberty ever considered in the United States Congress.”[8] This concern is echoed by Professor Laycock, an advocate of LGBTQIA+ rights and Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, when he stated in an email to National Review, “It goes very far to stamp out religious exemptions” (McCormack, 2019).[9]

Even without the Equality Act in place, President Biden’s Executive Order has already placed Christian schools in a precarious position. He signed the E.O. “on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” that requires public schools to open up traditionally private places to the opposite sex. For example, a Christian school may be required to allow men who identify (or claim to) as women into the girl’s dormitory, bathroom, or locker room. This scenario is currently being worked through the courts as the College of the Ozarks’ has requested to be exempt from the President’s order.[10]

I only received one response from my senators. Senator Feinstein (or her staff) kindly reminded me that she sponsored the legislation and ignored each of the concerns that I listed in my letter. It’s time to speak. Write your representatives about H.R. 5…maybe you’ll have better luck with your elected “representatives” than I did.

Notes


[*] Featured Image: Quintin Soloviev, Alaska Airlines – Boeing 737-900 – N442AS, December 4, 2019, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alaska_Airlines_-_Boeing_737-900_-_N442AS_(Quintin_Soloviev).jpg. The image altered with a rainbow sky.

[1] Samuel Dorman, “Alaska Airlines accused of ‘canceling’ flight attendants for expressing religious beliefs,” Fox Business, September 8, 2021, https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/alaska-airlines-equality-act-canceling-flight-attendants-religious-beliefs.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Hugo Greenhalgh and Kate Ryan, “Factbox: What would the Equality Act mean for LGBT Americans?” Reuters, February 26, 2021.

[4] Whitney Novak, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act: A Primer (Washington: Congressional Research Service, 2020).

[5] Heritage Foundation, 11 Myths About H.R. 5, the Equality Act of 2021 (Washington: The Heritage Foundation, 2021), 1, https://www.heritage.org/gender/report/11-myths-about-hr-5-the-equality-act-2021.

[6] Tim Strode, “Baptist Press: ERLC: Equality Act would erode fundamental freedoms.” Baptist Press, March 17, 2021.

[7] Heritage Foundation, 11 Myths About H.R. 5, 3.

[8] David Crary, “LGBTQ rights bill ignites debate over religious liberty,” Associated Press, March 8, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-business-religion-race-and-ethnicity-bills-7835e3ff55e04c8634ab92541bdc12b3.

[9] John McCormack, “A Liberal Law Professor Explains Why the Equality Act Would ‘Crush’ Religious Dissenters,” National Review, May 17, 2019, https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/05/law-professor-explains-why-the-equality-act-would-crush-religious-dissenters/.

[10] Caroline Downey, “Federal Judge Rules Christian College Must Comply with Biden’s ‘Anti-Discrimination’ Gender Order,” National Review, May 21, 2021, https://www.nationalreview.com/news/federal-judge-rules-christian-college-must-comply-with-bidens-anti-discrimination-gender-order/.

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