WASHINGTON, DC - Religious freedom advocates are sounding an alarm on the new Equality Act. Democrats introduced an updated version of the bill that aims to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation last week, but opponents say the bill is anything but equal.
Critics tell CBN News if the Equality Act becomes law, results could include males identifying as females using women's locker rooms, faith-based adoption and foster agencies required to place children with same-sex couples, and florists forced to fill orders for same-sex weddings.
"Every American should be treated with dignity and respect, but our laws need to protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights that we have," Greg Baylor from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) tells CBN News.
ADF handles numerous religious liberty cases in states where laws like the Equality Act already exist.
"Now under the Equality Act we will have a nationwide law," continued Baylor. "We will see a proliferation of instances where Christians and others are being coerced to violate their beliefs in order to comply with such a law."
While introducing the bill, Democrat lawmakers laid out why they think this law in necessary by referencing cases of same-sex couples who have experienced things like evictions from apartments, lost jobs, or lack of access to government resources.
"We cannot allow claims of religious freedom to be used to discriminate against an LGBT individual," said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).
"It makes a difference when any level of government or any corporation says that this discriminatory behavior and action is wrong. It makes a difference and it provides those of us in our community - the LGBT community - with the tools that we need to fight back," echoed Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
But Baylor claims these protections for same-sex couples come at the cost of constitutional freedoms for millions of other Americans.
"One of the interesting things about the Equality Act compared to the last version is that it focuses in, it adds more to punish faith-based adoption and foster providers," says Baylor.
In requiring faith-based adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples, sponsors argue the bill would increase the number of homes available to foster children, but Baylor points out it would force these agencies to go against their religious beliefs and convictions.
"Why is it necessary for the government to force faith-based adoption providers like the New Hope Center that we represent in New York to violate their convictions," asks Baylor.
He also believes if this becomes law, we will see religious freedom cases popping up all over the country.
"This is a frontal assault on religious liberty that we have not seen in the history of our nation," Baylor explained. "Not only does it contain no exemptions for religious organizations for religious individuals like many of these laws in the past have done, it actually strips us of our constitutionally protected rights."
Not every Democrat is on board with the bill. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) won't support his party's Equality Act. He thinks the measure should permit more local government decisions.
The bill is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives and even has support from a few Republican supporters. But as of now, the US Senate is not expected to bring it to the floor this session.