The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on H.R. 5, the “Equality Act” on Friday. A great number of organizations from across the political spectrum have teamed up to oppose the bill, including pro-life groups, religious freedom organizations, and feminist Democrats. The bill would ban discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), enshrining a new sexual orthodoxy in federal law.
“The misleadingly named Equality Act is an anti-freedom bill that empowers federal government to enforce conformity by punishing disagreement on SOGI,” Emilie Kao, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, told PJ Media. The bill’s “broad scope and radical nature made it possible for Heritage to bring together a broad bipartisan coalition that includes feminists, lesbians and de-transitioners as well as religious groups.”
Indeed, radical feminists and lesbians have spoken out against the bill multiple times at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. In January, Kara Dansky, a feminist lawyer and spokeswoman for the radical feminist organization the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), condemned transgender activism as a “men’s rights movement.”
On Thursday, Dansky told PJ Media about the efforts she and other women with WoLF have taken to combat the Equality Act. On Thursday morning, she appeared with Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), four other House members, and representatives from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Concerned Women for America (CWA), and the Family Research Council (FRC) to condemn the Equality Act.
“WoLF has been doing advocacy on the Hill to counter the narrative that the Equality Act is a civil rights issue,” Dansky told PJ Media. “We have discovered that women across the political spectrum share a lot of common ground when we talk about protecting the privacy, safety, and rights of women and girls.”
Enshrining transgender identity into federal civil rights law would force public accommodations to allow biological men to enter women’s restrooms and changing rooms if they claim to identify as women. It would open women’s sports to biological men. Yet it arguably does something even worse — it removes all sex-specific rights, so lesbian feminist Julia Beck has slammed it as a “human rights violation.”
“It would erase women and girls as a discrete legal category as a discrete civil rights protection,” Dansky explained. “Women have for thousands of years been fighting to protect ourselves because for too long we have been held down on the basis of our biological sex. Feminists support the complete abolition of gender and the so-called Equality Act would enshrine gender into federal civil rights law.”
“Feminists believe that gender is a set of sex-based stereotypes that keep women in a box that are imposed on us on the basis of our biological sex,” she added. “Gender harms everybody but it particularly harms women and girls.”
For these reasons, Dansky said, “we’ve set aside our strong ideological differences on a number of issues in order to come together to fight this attack on women’s rights.”
Many WoLF members have gone to congressional offices on the Hill to warn lawmakers not to support the bill. “Women from around the country have come to D.C. to do this. We also have members calling” their representatives, Dansky added. She also noted that WoLF has filed a friend of the court brief in Doe v. Boyertown, a case in which students sued the school district in order to protect sex-segregated spaces.
Sadly, “WoLF is the only feminist organization fighting this battle on behalf of women and girls in the United States,” Dansky said. “It’s a constant struggle personally because I’m homeless politically although I remain a Democrat.”
Walker Wildmon, vice president of operations at the American Family Association (AFA), warned that the Equality Act “nationalizes Target’s dangerous bathroom policy.” After Target opened its women’s restrooms and changing rooms to biological men, voyeurs posed as women spying on them in private. An AFA petition against the Target policy racked up more than one million signatures in its first week.
“This bill would nationalize that policy to any public accommodations” — even churches in some cases, Wildmon said.
As of Thursday, AFA had sent “over 36,000 emails just to the House of Representatives,” sent by citizens from all fifty states. “We’re currently talking to House Republican leadership on what they can do to stop this legislation.” In addition to this, AFA has broadcast information against the Equality Act through its radio network of 180 radio stations in 32 states.
“Ultimately, I don’t think this legislation is going to become law, at least as long as President Trump’s in the White House,” Wildmon said. Yet if the bill fails, he warned that Democrats would push Fairness for All, similar legislation that includes a weak religious exemption. Ironically, this exemption would harm religious freedom overall, since the First Amendment would already guarantee a broader exemption.
Other conservative organizations have also pressured Congress to vote against H.R. 5.
On Monday, the Family Research Council (FRC) led a coalition of 21 prominent Christian leaders in sending a letter to Republican and Democratic leadership in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham, bestselling author Eric Metaxas, Pastor Robert Jeffress, Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., Ralph Reed, and AFA President Tim Wildmon signed the letter opposing the act.
“Not only is it incompatible with God’s Word (the Bible) and the historic teaching of the church, but the Equality Act is also riddled with threats to religious liberty and the sanctity of human life,” they wrote. They opposed the institution of LGBT identities as equal to “immutable characteristics like skin color and ethnicity,” warning that “passage of this coercive measure would lay the groundwork for this lie to enter classrooms across the nation, as public educators could be compelled to teach it to their students.”
The bill would not just institutionalize these identities, but force public accommodations to protect them. The letter warned that the bill “would gut religious freedom protections—even the freedom currently enjoyed by houses of worship.” Some houses of worship would not be able to ensure their leaders and employees abide by their beliefs about sexuality.
The letter is just one of FRC’s many strategies against the act, Mary Beth Waddell, FRC’s senior legislative assistant, told PJ Media. The group has reached out to many Republicans in Congress, “letting them know how harmful and terrible the bill is.”
Waddell and FRC have run into many other groups in their advocacy on Capitol Hill, including the Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, CWA, WoLF, and more.
“We’ve also sent out alerts to our members for them to reach out to their congressmen and let them know that they oppose the bill,” Waddell recalled. FRC will also “score against the bill,” listing a vote for or against it on legislative scorecards.
“It’s a very troubling bill on a number of fronts because it’s government-mandated acceptance of an ideology based on sexuality. And because it’s so broad, our top concerns would be those of the privacy and safety of women and girls, the politicization of the medical field and how it would promote abortion,” she told PJ Media. She also warned that the bill would undercut religious freedom, weaken parental rights, and harm the people it is intended to protect.
“I don’t see this bill in its current form making into law, at least right now,” Waddell admitted. “But it is an extremely terrible, dangerous, unfair bill that we need to make sure that everyone knows that it is an unfair terrible harmful bill.” She said FRC has gotten over 11,000 people to contact their representatives in just the last four days.
Among other concerns, Waddell explained that the Equality Act could force health care providers to perform abortions, and may force taxpayers to fund abortion. Federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, but the Equality Act would expand the definition of “sex discrimination” to include discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition,” including abortion.
The bill would also add “establishments that provide health care” to the list of “public accommodations.” Together, these provisions would force health care providers to provide abortion as a “treatment” for pregnancy. The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) warned that all this will happen unless new language preventing abortion funding or defending conscience provisions is added to the bill.
For this reason, pro-life groups like Susan B. Anthony List, the March for Life, and NRLC are “scoring” against the bill. A person with information about the March for Life confirmed that the March for Life is scoring the vote and lobbying against the Equality Act.
The American College of Pediatricians is also advocating against the bill, the vice president of the college, Michelle Cretella, told PJ Media. The college “and the American Association of Pro-Life Ob-Gyns collaborated with the Christian Medical & Dental Associations to educate and mobilize our members to contact their reps to vote against HR-5,” Cretella said.
She has given multiple media interviews and participated in a briefing of the House of Representatives Values Action Team.
Most of the conservative groups have targeted Republicans, strengthening their opposition to the bill. But Mass Resistance, a conservative pro-family group, has forced Democrats to defend their support for the bill.
“When Democrat members of Congress pushing this bill have been in their districts holding ‘town hall’ events or other activities, we try to be there to confront them on this bill. We make them talk about it. We make them answer the hard questions,” Mass Resistance explained. “We make it very clear that they need to cater to their constituents – not well-heeled special interests who want to subvert America’s laws.”
Mass Resistance confronted Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. They have also pressured Democrats in Maryland, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia.
This past weekend, Mass Resistance’s Arthur Schaper pressed Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.). His hard-hitting questions made Sanchez and her supporters uncomfortable.
Among other things, Mass Resistance noted that the Equality Act “hijacks the legitimate Civil Rights movement by incorporating the LGBT agenda into the nation’s civil rights laws. Thus, it equates the civil rights of racial minorities – based on immutable characteristics – with chosen sexual perversions. This is extremely offensive to black Americans who fought so hard for their rights!”
Black pastors have spoken out against the act, joining others in forming the group Gone2Far.
These feminist, conservative, and pro-life groups are unlikely to convince Democrats, and the Equality Act is likely to pass the House of Representatives, although it is unlikely to pass the U.S. Senate, much less get President Trump’s signature. But Democrats are likely to campaign on these issues in 2020, and Americans need to understand why the Equality Act is a bad bill.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.