On Friday, May 17, the U.S. House passed H.R. 5, the deceptively-named “Equality Act,” on a vote of 236 to 173. Every House Democrat voted for the bill, along with 8 Republicans. Now the bill moves to the Senate, hopefully to die without seeing a vote.

The bill redefines “sex” in federal non-discrimination laws, primarily the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but also the Fair Housing Act, the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991, the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, and more. The bill adds to the literal meaning of sex – referring to a person being biologically male or female – to include:

  • a sex stereotype;
  • pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition;
  • sexual orientation or gender identity; and
  • sex characteristics, including intersex traits.

The legislation also nullifies the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed by Congress in 1993, disallowing its use as a defense for violating the Equality Act. RFRA was passed to provide a higher level of protection for religious freedom after a Supreme Court ruling reduced protections. The House back then passed RFRA with a unanimous voice vote, it passed the Senate on a vote of 97-3, and President Bill Clinton signed the legislation.

The fact that the House wants to eliminate RFRA as a defense, less than three decades after passing the bill, demonstrates how much our religious freedoms have come under fire. In essence, legislators are proclaiming that socially constructed categories of sexuality such as “sexual orientation and gender identity” trump religious freedom. The House is also telling us that these socially constructed identities are more important than the biological categories of male and female

“Sexual orientation” is very subjective, and refers to numerous changeable aspects of a person, including sexual and romantic thoughts, feelings, attractions, desires, behaviors and identity. People aren’t born with a specific “sexual orientation,” nor is sexual orientation fixed and unchangeable.

“Gender identity” refers to how people think about themselves as male or female, or some combination of the two, or neither. Modern transgender ideology teaches, among other things: There are no real differences between men and women (except for incidental hormonal and reproductive ones); gender is fluid and changeable; an infinite number of genders exist; and, individuals create their own genders (including having no gender).

H.R. 5 also redefines “sex” to include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” Lawmakers include this phrase to ensure unrestricted access to contraceptives and abortion. It would be “discriminatory,” under this act, to make abortion illegal. 

The bill also specifically cites “conversion therapy” as a “form of discrimination.” Pastors, counselors and lay-leaders who provide counseling and support for those with unwanted homosexuality or gender confusion could be at risk for discrimination lawsuits.

If this ideology triumphs and the “Equality Act” were to pass, here are some of the devastating consequences we can expect:

  • Single-sex facilities, such as dressing rooms, showers and restrooms, would be open to those who believe they are or claim to be the opposite sex – putting privacy and safety at risk.
  • Businesses would be forced to support events and ideas they disagree with – or lose discrimination lawsuits.
  • Shelters for women who have suffered emotional and physical abuse from men would be open to biological men who believe they are women.
  • Faith-based foster care and adoption agencies that believe children deserve a mother and father would be forced to place children with same-sex couples or shut down.
  • Medical providers could be forced to violate their beliefs and provide drugs, hormones and surgeries for those “transitioning” to the opposite sex.
  • Businesses and faith-based groups could be forced to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortions – against their deeply held beliefs.
  • Biological men who believe they are women would be able to compete in women’s sports at every level, from school to amateur to professional.
  • The act would regulate “thought, belief and speech,” requiring people to assent to “new beliefs about human identity” that are contrary to their faith and beliefs.
  • Parents who do not support their child’s gender confusion could lose custody of their children because of their “discriminatory” beliefs.
  • School children would be introduced to transgender ideology and concepts such as sexual orientation as early as pre-school – often over the beliefs of parents.
  • Teachers would be forced to comply with this agenda, or risk losing their jobs.
  • Ministries that provide counseling and support for those with unwanted homosexuality or gender confusion would risk discrimination lawsuits.

Erasing male-female distinctions, elevating sexual orientation and gender identity above religious freedom and codifying “abortion rights” in non-discrimination laws would have widespread negative consequences for everyone. Schools, churches, businesses, families, women and children, medical providers, faith-based organizations – all these and more would suffer undesirable effects if the Equality Act were to pass. It’s important for concerned Christians to stay educated and engaged as we face this cultural onslaught.

Practical ways to get involved:

  • Subscribe to The Daily Citizen for weekly e-mail updates.
  • Subscribe to Focus on the Family Action alerts – check “Engaging the Culture.”
  • Connect with your state’s Family Policy Council. These Focus-affiliated organizations work to influence state and local legislation that supports life, family, marriage, parental rights, free speech and religious freedom. 

Photo from hrc.org