'Fairness for All' Seen as Equality Act Alternative: Civil Liberties for LGBTQ, Protections for People of Faith
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Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are getting ready to decide on a landmark piece of LGBTQ legislation that would crush religious liberty.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on the legislation known as the Equality Act. But there's also an alternative approach that would protect religious freedom.
The alternative measure is called the Fairness for All Act. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT). It would provide civil liberties for LGBTQ individuals while also providing protections for people of faith.
"There's room here to find an area where both can be accommodated, where both can be comfortable. The Equality Act doesn't do that. Fairness for All will," Stewart said.
House Democrats are expected to pass the Equality Act as they did in 2019. The real battle over the bill will likely come in the Senate.
"I don't think this will pass in the Senate and that opens up the opportunity for Fairness for All," Stewart explained. "We have bipartisan support for this. It's not just a Republican idea. It's not just a conservative idea. There's some of our Democratic colleagues who are going to join us on that and once they see that they're not going to force this on the Senate, that opens the door to look at an alternative."
When House Democrats introduced the bill last week, President Biden echoed his support for the Equality Act just like he did last year on the campaign trail.
"I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation," Biden said in a statement. "Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all."
The Equality Act would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to NPR.
The measure would also open up the proverbial "can of worms."
As CBN News has previously reported, under the Equality Act, disagreement is considered discrimination. It includes gay marriage, transgender people who were born biologically male competing in women's sports, and doctors performing procedures - like gender reassignments - that violate their conscience.
The measure goes even farther.
"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, told CBN News.
By redefining sex discrimination, the measure would further enshrine abortion on demand, likely end a longstanding prohibition on taxpayer-funded abortions, and remove conscience protections for doctors and nurses.
Biologically male athletes 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 with them 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.
The act also 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. "I don't have to prove anything. It's based simply on my perception or belief," he continued.
Under the so-called Equality Act, certain Christian beliefs become unlawful. Churches could be prevented from requiring employees to abide by their biblical beliefs about marriage and differences between men and women.
The measure could also threaten Christian businesses or organizations like flower shops and bakers who have been in the news for the past several years due to high-profile discrimination lawsuits after declining to provide services that endorse same-sex marriage.
The act also states that it overrules the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (commonly known by its acronym RFRA), which was passed in 1993. RFRA set a higher standard for the federal government to defend certain laws if citizens argued those laws violate their religious freedom. Under the Equality Act, a person arguing their case couldn't use RFRA as a defense or to challenge the act itself.
The Equality Act will take 60 votes to avoid a filibuster in the Senate.
Several religious and conservative organizations have released statements in opposition to it.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the act is a serious threat to our nation's core values.
"The Equality Act is a grave and treasonous threat to our nation's core values contained in our First Amendment. The fact that no Republicans have co-sponsored it, even those who co-sponsored in the previous Congress, underscores the Democrats' lurch to the Left. This is a radical bill that uses the government to control, through coercion, how every American thinks, speaks, and acts on issues of human sexuality. It may be named the Equality Act, but as the details make quite clear, the only equal thing about it is how much damage it does to many facets of American life," Perkins said.
"It is an attack on parental rights and women's sports, but to the millions of people of faith in this country, it is an egregious attack on the freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act will be committed to the 'memory hole,' and we will then experience a devastating loss of religious freedom in America, and that will have consequences for all Americans," he continued.
"Activists in high-office, whom President Biden is working to appoint, could use the Act to punish faith-based organizations of any type - places of worship, schools, small businesses, adoption agencies, pregnancy centers, and other non-profit charities - that decline to surrender their beliefs on the family, sexuality, and even abortion," the FRC president explained.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and founder of the Imago Dei Campaign, said elected officials must not attempt to address inequality by making others less equal.
"The answer to a rightwing culture war is not a leftwing culture war. Our elected officials must not attempt to address inequality by making others less equal. The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference joins Latino Catholics in opposing the Equality Act. While a high bar, it is almost impossible to imagine a more disastrous piece of legislation than the Equality Act," Rodriguez said.
"In what is a complicated issue worthy of discussion among various stakeholders, the Democratic party has chosen to take an imperialistic approach, short-circuiting our system of debate and compromise, and in turn, exchanging the fundamental human rights of one group for those of another. In the U.S., we cannot protect one minority by disenfranchising the sincerely held religious beliefs of another minority. I look forward to standing alongside rabbis, pastors, bishops, and priests in opposing this haphazard effort to address a legitimate concern," he concluded.
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