Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden — who has called “transgender equality” the “civil rights issue of our time” — vowed, once again, during a recent interview to sign the Equality Act into law in his first 100 days in office, should he win the presidency and the Democrats take control of both houses of Congress.
The controversial legislation, which many have described as a serious threat to religious liberty, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights laws, granting no legal cover for people of faith. Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has said that, while the bill protects the LGBT community, it would “steamroll the consciences of millions of people,” referring to religious folks.
If it becomes law, the Equality Act would strip Christians who view marriage as a holy union between one man and one woman of any sort of legal exceptions. According to the text of the bill, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 “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.” Essentially, that means religious people would not be permitted cite the 1993 law in an effort to exempt themselves from being held to measures in the Equality Act that violate their convictions.
Practically speaking, the leftist legislation, which passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in 2019 but failed in the Republican-led Senate, would allow people to use whichever restrooms aligned with their chosen sexual identities, would force female athletes to compete with biological males who identify as females, and would require faith-based adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples or shut down.
The act also adds the words “perception” and “belief” to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — a shift Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) has described as troubling.
“If I go to interview in a job and I’m not hired I can sue that employer because I perceive they were thinking I was gay and so they didn’t hire me,” he said.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, that “an individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions” because “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing the majority opinion, acknowledged that, in some cases, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “might supersede Title VII’s commands.” Ultimately, though, he decided the defendants in the case — to include a Christian funeral home owner in Michigan who fired an employee after the worker, a biological male, began identifying as a female and dressing like a woman — didn’t sufficiently show that “compliance with Title VII will infringe their own religious liberties in any way.”
At the time, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Andrew Walker, called the ruling “devastating for religious liberty” as it “just gave the spirit of the Equality Act in a legal opinion, rather than in statute.”
As for the Equality Act, in 2019, 21 Christian leaders — including the Rev. Franklin Graham, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, and Dr. James Dobson — sent a letter to Congress and Vice President Mike Pence, explaining why the bill would be so detrimental to religious liberty.