A bill labeled the Equality Act could go to a vote in the U.S. Senate at any time. The measure, which threatens religious liberty on a number of fronts, has already passed the U.S. House. And if you think that it can’t pass in the Republican-controlled Senate, consider the fact that eight Republicans helped to pass the bill in the House. If the bill (H.R.5) passes in its current form, it would be the first time in history that the classifications of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” would be elevated to protected status under federal civil rights laws.
Mary Beth Waddell, an attorney with Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., says the bill is a disaster waiting to happen if it passes. “The bill has a number of really alarming concerns,” she says. “It guts women’s rights and equality. It politicizes the medical community. It’s radically pro-abortion. It’s extremely hostile to people of faith. It could erode parental rights. It could lead to highly inappropriate sexual education and history lessons being taught in schools. And the list goes on.”
“The Equality Act is a massive bill,” Waddell continues. “It would overhaul our federal civil rights framework by making nearly 60 amendments to nearly 10 different civil rights laws, and assigning special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity. For example, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers public accommodations, which were traditionally understood to be things like hotels, restaurants, store fronts, etc., and currently race, color, national origin and religion are what’s covered in it’s non-discrimination clause. The Equality Act would add sex including sexual orientation and gender identity to that list. And then expand the definition of a “public accommodation” to include just about any person or place that offers a good service or program. So you’re talking massive overhaul.”
If this bill passes, you can expect litigation persecution on par with what’s been aimed at Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman to immediately break out all over the country.
Learn more by listening to Family Policy Matters radio show and podcast below as NC Family President John Rustin interviews Mary Beth Waddell.
Then, contact your U.S. Senator and let him know that you don’t want the Equality Act to become the law of the land. This is easy to do if you go to the NC Family Action Center, scroll to the bottom of the page and enter your address.
JOHN RUSTIN: Thank you for joining us for this week’s edition of Family Policy Matters. An innocuous-sounding bill that would massively overhaul our federal civil rights framework is making its way through the United States Congress. The so-called “Equality Act,” which has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives, could have far-reaching implications for all Americans across our nation, especially those of us who seek to live out our faith not only at home, but also in the public square. Passage of the Equality Act would be historic, because it would represent the first time in history that the classifications of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” would be elevated to protected status under federal civil rights laws on the same tier as race, age, sex, and national origin.
Today, I’m joined by Mary Beth Waddell, who is Senior Legislative Assistant for the Family Research Council (FRC) in Washington, D.C. At FRC, Mary Beth works with legislators and federal agencies on issues relating to the family and religious liberty. Mary Beth has followed the federal Equality Act very closely and has analyzed its potential impacts on individuals, families, and communities across our nation, and we’re excited to speak with her about that today. Mary Beth, welcome to Family Policy Matters. It’s great to have you on the show.
MARY BETH WADDELL: Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
JOHN RUSTIN: Mary Beth, what spurred the idea of the so-called Equality Act? Is this a new idea or has it been around for a while?
MARY BETH WADDELL: They were around for a few years. They’ve been trying to pass the bill. As you mentioned earlier, it has a wonderful, innocuous name. Who opposes equality, right? But the reality of the bill isn’t about equality; it isn’t a response to mass unjust discrimination against the LGBT community. If you look at what the bill actually says and does, it makes it clear that the real purpose is for the government to require acceptance of an ideology about sexual ethics and identity.
JOHN RUSTIN: So what are some of the big picture changes that this legislation proposes to make to American law?
MARY BETH WADDELL: You’ve already hit on that as well: The Equality Act is a massive bill. It would overhaul our federal civil rights framework by making nearly 60 amendments to nearly 10 different civil rights laws, and assigning special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity. For example, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers public accommodations, which were traditionally understood to be things like hotels, restaurants, store fronts, etc., and currently race, color, national origin and religion are what’s covered in it’s non-discrimination clause. The Equality Act would add sex including sexual orientation and gender identity to that list. And then expand the definition of a “public accommodation” to include just about any person or place that offers a good service or program. So you’re talking massive overhaul.
JOHN RUSTIN: First of all, let me ask are “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” as terms, actually defined in the proposal?
MARY BETH WADDELL: Not very well. Particularly, gender identity is just whatever the person claims. I can claim to be a woman and claim to be a man; it’s all about self-identification and that’s it. I’m an attorney and this is a litigation magnet. It is nothing but inviting litigation.
JOHN RUSTIN: So what aspects of the so-called Equality Act most concern you?
MARY BETH WADDELL: That’s a very long list! The bill has a number of really alarming concerns. It guts women’s rights and equality. It politicizes the medical community; it’s radically pro-abortion. It’s extremely hostile to people of faith. It could erode parental rights. It could lead to highly inappropriate sexual education and history lessons being taught in schools. And the list goes on.
JOHN RUSTIN: I do want to drill-down into a couple of those areas specifically, if you would just help us understand. So what impact, for example, would the Equality Act have on the activities of religious organizations, not only churches, but other organizations that have a faith statement as the basis of the work that they do?
MARY BETH WADDELL: It could affect all of those different entities that you just mentioned. It expressly does away, or exempts itself, from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is our flagship religious liberty law that was passed with nearly unanimous support, and signed into law by President Clinton in, I believe, ‘93 or ‘94. It is what was the defense used by the Little Sisters of the Poor when they were sued for not providing contraceptives. And—if the listeners are familiar with Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece case—that was the defense in that case that he won. And so that defense would be completely eradicated in any instance where the Equality Act is involved. The thing about RFRA— The Religious Freedom Restoration Act—it’s a balancing test. It doesn’t say that the religious practice, the religious belief, will always win. It says we’re going to weigh what is the government doing, what is the burden that it’s placing on religious practice? And we’re going to evaluate that and see if this is an undue burden. The weight is being put on the scales to say: No, government action is fine. Some houses of worship could be barred from ensuring that their leaders and employers abide by their beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and distinctions between the sexes. Women who identify as men would have to be accepted as men, therefore being potentially eligible to serve in positions reserved for men, like a Catholic Priest or a Jewish Rabbi. Religious employers could be forced to offer insurance coverage for medical procedures such as hormone therapy or surgery related to gender transition, that violate their beliefs or convictions. Religious charities could face closure or either compromising their faith. And some level of these sexual orientation and gender identity privileges would be mandated on almost every school in the country, including religious, and private universities.
JOHN RUSTIN: Wow, that’s quite extensive. Now what about the issues of personal privacy and parental rights? How would the bill affect these areas?
MARY BETH WADDELL: Women would no longer have privacy in public. Bathrooms, gym showers, gym lockers, etc., would all be open to men, and including in schools. Battered women’s shelters where women seek healing for their emotional and physical scars from having been abused by a man, would be open to men. This, in particular, is why we’ve actually been working with radical leftist lesbian feminists to oppose this bill because they understand the dangers of these outcomes and are vehemently opposed to the bill. It’s interesting the coalitions that you can make. As to parental rights: With the politization of the medical industry, it’s becoming harder and harder to oppose radical and harmful treatment for gender dysphoria. Parents’ hands could become tied more and more regarding their children’s medical care. In Ohio, a couple lost custody of their teenage daughter because they didn’t want to pursue hormone treatment. The girl’s doctors got Child Protective Services involved and she was eventually placed in her grandparents care. Many schools are already creating sexual education programs that parents are unaware of and have no option of opting their kids out of. And history lessons could also begin to change to include sexual ideology. Neither one of those with the curriculum are a direct mandate of the Equality Act, but with the Civil Rights Act, courts required Black History curriculum to be taught in schools, which you know is a good thing. But the whole purpose of this agenda is to try and equate sexual orientation and gender identity with race, which they’re completely and distinctly different. So judges could make the same determination and require LGBT lessons to be taught in schools, and parents would have very little recourse. Any school—like, all the bathrooms at schools—would have to be basically co-ed. Both men and women would be allowed to go in them. Sports would now be co-ed—you’d have men that are allowed to play women’s sports. Just as in Decatur, Georgia, when you had the Obama Administration—their department of Education and Department of Justice—put out the letter to the schools, sort of threatening them with their federal funding if they didn’t basically open their bathrooms. So most schools opened their bathrooms. And a five-year-old little girl in Decatur, Georgia was sexually assaulted in her bathroom by a male classmate, and that’s still in litigation. Nothing’s really been done about that. The mother of this child has been out there beating the drum of what happened to her daughter, and the school actually sued the mother as if she was the problem here, and she’s trying to protect her child.
JOHN RUSTIN: I know in a number of cases actually, where the schools have tried to make reasonable accommodations to allow a transgender-identifying student to use a staff bathroom, a single use or single person bathroom during the day, as opposed to disrupting all of the other students by having a male go into the girls’ bathroom, or something of that nature. And that was not sufficient enough from the standpoint of the transgender-identifying student and the parents or family of that student. And it really begs the question: Are the proponents of this bill, are they really seeking true equality or are they really seeking to impose—and use the power of the government to impose—acceptance of these lifestyle and behavioral choices?
MARY BETH WADDELL: That is the whole purpose—the true purpose of this bill. There is a real push to close down faith-based adoption providers, which has been harmful to children. We’ve seen in Illinois, when Catholic Charities was kicked out, nearly 3000 children were displaced and it’s really, really sad to see.
JOHN RUSTIN: Mary Beth, in your opinion, what is the likelihood that the Equality Act, either in its present form or in a similar form, will be passed into law by the U.S. Congress?
MARY BETH WADDELL: In its current version, this massive package, that isn’t likely to pass. But we absolutely need to remain vigilant because bills have already been introduced that have components of the Equality Act, and those could see movement. Or, we could also see amendments to other laws on unrelated topics like education or employment and things like that, that would be components of the Equality Act, and would be made an amendment to those bills and those laws.
JOHN RUSTIN: We definitely need to stay vigilant, as you said, not only on the national level but also on the state level in states across the country. Especially in states like North Carolina where these classifications—sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression—are not currently recognized as civil rights status classifications in our statutes. So, we continue to fight to defend our state against those types of things. But it’s incredibly important that folks get active and involved and remain very aware of what’s happening. And speaking of remaining aware and being active and engaged, Mary Beth, how can folks and our listeners learn more about the Equality Act and follow its progress in Congress? And also take positive steps to ensure that this very harmful legislation is not enacted into law?
MARY BETH WADDELL: Reach out to your members, those members that voted for it. Let them know that you’re not happy with them. Those that voted against it, tell them thank you. You know, so many times when members are there to fight and they stand for the right thing, we don’t give enough thanks. So just make sure that they know: Hey, we really appreciate you’re doing this. Talk to Senator Tillis. Talk to Senator Burr and say: We do not want this to be the law of the land. We do not want you to support this or any other similar legislation. Contact your congressmen and your senators, absolutely. I mean, you’re the ones that put them there; they care about what you think. You can go to our website, frc.org. You’ll have Washington Watch or Washington Updates that Tony will put on. He does his radio show and he’s talked about the Equality Act a number of times, and then updated stories on the Equality Act a number of times. You can look me up on the website. I’ve got some publications. I’ve written about it, for people to learn more.
JOHN RUSTIN: Well, great. Mary Beth, thank you so much, and we appreciate the great work that Tony Perkins and Family Research Council and you do, not only on issues like the so-called Equality Act, but on so many other things that our representatives in Congress are considering and acting upon. It is so important that people’s voices are heard and you all are a great voice for us in our nation’s Capitol and we’re extremely grateful for that. So folks, please visit the FRC website at www.frc.org, and to easily send correspondence to our Congressional delegation in North Carolina, you can visit our website at ncfamily.org and visit our Action Center where you can easily contact your members of Congress and encourage them to do the right thing on the Equality Act and other pieces of legislation that they’re considering.
And with that, Mary Beth Waddell, I want to thank you so much for being with us on Family Policy Matters. We’re so grateful for the excellent work that you and FRC does on our behalf. So keep up the great work. God bless you, and look forward to speaking with you again soon.
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