WASHINGTON – The Equality Act is expected to advance in Congress this week. It's a controversial bill designed to overhaul the nation's civil rights laws to include LGBT Americans, but many worry it will trample on the rights of women and people of faith.
Under the Equality Act, disagreement is considered discrimination. It includes gay marriage, biological males competing in women's sports, and doctors performing procedures - like gender reassignments - that go against their conscience.
It's a bill President Joe Biden wants to sign during his first 100 days.
"The Equality Act provides long overdue federal civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ Americans, preventing discrimination in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems. I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation," Biden tweeted.
The Equality Act provides long overdue federal civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ Americans, preventing discrimination in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems. I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation.
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 19, 2021
However, the bill does much more.
"We can see it would immediately be stripping religious Americans and stripping girls and women of our equal rights," Denise Harle, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, tells CBN News.
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By redefining sex discrimination, the measure would provide for abortion on demand, likely end a longstanding prohibition on taxpayer funded abortions, and remove conscience protections for doctors and nurses.
Biological men would be allowed to compete in women's sports effectively obliterating Title IX while girls and women would be forced to share locker rooms and bathrooms in schools and public places.
Harle says we don't have to guess about the results, rather just look at cities and states that have already passed similar measures.
"In Alaska, the city of Anchorage had a law like this and punished a faith-based homeless shelter for battered women and actually forced them to allow biological men who identified as women to sleep and change clothes alongside these women, most of whom were victims of rape and sex trafficking and actually prosecuted (the shelter) under the law, trying to shut down this Christian shelter," Harle explains.
She says the Equality Act allows for subjectivity, an issue Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) raised last summer on the Senate floor.
"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," Lankford said during a speech last July.
"I don't have to prove anything. It's based simply on my perception or belief," he continued.
Under the bill, Christian beliefs are unlawful. Churches could be prevented from requiring employees to abide by their biblical beliefs about marriage and differences between men and women.
Alliance Defending Freedom is litigating a case in Virginia, a state that recently passed a law like the Equality Act.
"Churches are banned from having a dress code, having a code of conduct for their employees. Even asking in interviews if potential employees share core religious beliefs," Harle says.
She and others opposed to the legislation say tolerance must be a two-way street.
"The Equality Act treats people of faith as second-class citizens. It specifies a certain point of view and it labels it as bigotry," she says.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants a vote in the House this week where the measure is expected to pass overwhelmingly.
It will take 60 votes in the evenly divided Senate. At least one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) opposes it, but it's unclear how many Republicans might support it.