Too much equality?

Too much equality?

Church in the U.S © PhotoLizM (shutterstock)

Conservative Christians want to stop the Equality Act in the U.S. Senate: The Equality Act threatens the traditional social fabric of society, they say. The House of Representatives has already passed the bill.

US bishops sound alarm. If the Equality Act comes, "people of faith would be discriminated against," five committee chairs of the Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to members of the U.S. Congress in late February. The "Equality Act" blurs the differences between men and women, therefore deviates from God's image of man and reinterprets biological sex into a "sociocultural role," they criticize.

"Equality Act."

The Equality Act, drafted as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, would have the effect of also explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If the bill passes the Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives, it can go into effect nationwide with the signature of U.S. President Joe Biden.

From the perspective of the LGBTQ advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign, the ruling would be a major step forward, as gays, lesbians and transgender people in 27 states are not protected from job loss or rejection by landlords or real estate sales.

Different perspective

The moral theologian at Catholic Mount St. Mary's Seminary, Kenneth Craycraft, like the bishops, sees the faithful as victims. He considers the "Equality Act" an attack on biology and an attack on religious freedom. University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock also argues along these lines. The law, she said, "protects the rights of one side but seeks to destroy the rights of the other side".

But not all Catholic spokespeople are fronting against the Equality Act. Sister Simone Campbell, director of the Catholic Social Services Network, says the law is consistent with Catholic teaching. "If all are welcome, all must be protected," she explains. Campbell has recently received support for her argument from Jewish and Muslim religious leaders as well.

Evangelicals oppose proposed legislation

The tone in the evangelical camp is more unified. Rev. Franklin Graham called the proposed legislation "very dangerous". TV evangelist Pat Robertson shouted to his audience back in 2019, "If you want to bring the judgment of God on this nation, keep it up".

Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Ethics Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), says the Equality Act punishes faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs. "In our lifetime, there has not been such a significant attack on religious liberty," said Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear.

The Equality Act already cleared the House hurdle once in May 2019, but then failed in the Senate, where the Republican majority did not take up the bill. Then-President Donald Trump had threatened to veto it if it ever landed on his desk for signature.

Chances of implementation?

Under Biden, political odds for breakthrough have changed. He has made the law a priority. Although the hurdle for the "Act" in the Senate is high, because the law needs 60 of 100 votes, and the Democrats have only 50 votes. But some moderate Republican senators have signaled approval.

Subject to amendments, Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney would also be in favor of the provision. Mormon calls for strong protection of religious freedoms. A roadmap for compromise could be about details – such as the ie, decided in court, of whether to allow pastry chefs to refuse cakes to LGBTQ couples, citing their religious rights.

While Catholic bishops and evangelicals are mobilizing, the vast majority of Americans see the ie as posing little threat, according to the "Values" poll by polling firm PRRI. Eight out of 10 respondents in last year's survey advocated for protection of LGBTQ people from discrimination in public life.

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