Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Equality Act was opened by Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who called the meeting to order and said, “Today we’re holding the first Senate hearing on the Equality Act. And the first Senate hearing on the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans in more than a decade.”
The senator introduced a video “that recognized how far we’ve come – and how far we still have to go.” The video began with a speech from Harvey Milk, the first openly gay-identified elected official in California, and moved on to show highlights of LGBT pride activism through the years.
The video showed a broadcaster from MSNBC quoting the myth that transgender individuals have “a life expectancy that hovers around 35 years of age.” The myth has been repeated by activists and the media and comes from a report on LGBT victims of homicides which concluded “80% of trans persons killed were 35 years of age or younger.” The report did not give a verifiable life expectancy for all transgender-identified individuals.
The video did not mention that LGBT-identified individuals already have the same protections that all U.S. citizens have, through the Constitution and Bill of Rights. They also have the protections of federal, state and local laws. What they don’t have, except in 21 states, is protections based on their sexual and romantic attractions, identities, behaviors and thoughts. The question remains: Are sexuality and sexual identities a legitimate basis for federal protections?
Durbin went on to compare sexuality and identity to race and ran through a litany of laws that were used to prosecute homosexual acts throughout the years. He also quoted a statistic, from a study by the Center for American Progress (CAP), which said, “More than 1 in 3 LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination of some kind in the past year, including more than 3 in 5 transgender Americans.”
The survey relied on self-reporting, with LGBT-identified individuals asked, “In the past year, have you experienced discrimination of any kind based on your race or ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, economic status, immigration status, or age?” There is, of course, no way to verify the veracity of the reports or whether it was based on sexual orientation and identity.
Senator Durbin then turned to the ranking member of the committee, Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who said, “Laws to end hateful discrimination can be tailored to prevent injustices in various contexts, like banking and housing, and thereby end those injustices. This bill is drafted in an entirely different way.”
He went on to explain that the bill “would fundamentally manipulate how our society deals with subjects of sex, gender and faith.” Grassley added that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, and with kindness and compassion, and he said his guide was The Bible: “Love God, that first law, and the second law, love your neighbor as yourself.” The Senator said he suspects that the bill’s “sweeping language” does not show love to neighbors, but would “dictate what women, girls, schools, churches, doctors and others must believe.”
The senator is absolutely right – Christians should act with kindness and respect toward LGBT-identified individuals. Many LGBT-identified people have been hurt – sometimes by Christians. It’s a difficult balance, but we can have love and compassion, even as we oppose a political agenda that we believe is destructive.
Joe Dallas, an ordained pastoral counselor who left homosexuality, writes, “The church has always had the challenge of responding to the issues of its time. And when he church has failed at times in responding in a way that accurately represented God, God has traditionally done two things: He called His people to repent; and He called His people to recommit.” Dallas writes that Christians can love and serve LGBT-identified men and women, without compromising our beliefs.
Senator Grassley then had testimony from Chelsea Mitchell, Christina Mitchell, Alana Smith, and Selina Soule read into the record. Chelsea, Alana and Selina are three track athletes from Connecticut who lost opportunities to boys who think they are girls, as the boys were allowed to participate in girls track.
Christina is Chelsea’s mother; she has three daughters who play soccer and basketball and run track. She said the Connecticut policy that allows biological males to participate in girls sports has “been devastating for female athletes … as two males were awarded girls’ state championship titles 15 different times.”
Senator Durbin then introduced Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., a primary sponsor of the Senate version of the Equality Act, along with Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. Merkley said he worked with the House and LGBT activists to sponsor the first version of the Equality Act, back in 2015.
Merkley referred to the ideals of the Founding Fathers, who believed “that all of us are created equal and deserving of the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” He said the country had made significant progress toward achieving the Founders vision, “but we are not there yet.”
The senator said, “In 29 states today, LGBTQ Americans can be married in the morning, ejected from a restaurant at lunch, denied a mortgage, dismissed from jury duty in the afternoon, and evicted from their home that same night.”
Merkley did not say how often these things actually happen. In fact, when a gay-identified journalist, James Kirchick, asked the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for statistics on this, the group was unable to provide him with any. In an article in The Atlantic, he wrote, “Most social movements are able to identify the extent of the problems they seek to address.” HRC is the largest LGBT activist organization in the world.
Kirchick went on to report that gay-identified men “earn 10 percent more on average than their straight peers” and that “researchers have long identified a similar trend among lesbians.” He explained that more than 600 businesses “earned a 100 percent rating” in HRC’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index, “which tracks LGBTQ inclusiveness among the country’s leading employers.”
In his testimony, Senator Booker said, “I believe in freedom of religion,” but said opponents of the act were “using religion as a shield” for discrimination. He said, “It is wrong to deny somebody the ability to serve on a jury just because they are LGBTQ. It is wrong to deny someone a seat at a lunch counter just because they are LGBT or Q.”
Others testifying in favor of the act included Alphonso David, President of HRC; Edith Guffey, a board member of PFLAG and a minister in the United Church of Christ; and Senator Baldwin, the first openly gay candidate elected to the Senate. “PFLAG” used to be an acronym for “Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays”; now it’s just the name of the organization.
Abigail Shrier, a journalist whose book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, was banned by Amazon, spoke against the bill. She said she would support a bill “to extend employment and housing rights to gay and transgender Americans,” but went on to describe the Equality Act’s harmful effects on girls and women in sports, prison, pre-school students and domestic violence shelters.
Shrier said the bill erases differences between biological women and men who claim to be women. She also cited the recent story of six male prisoners who claimed to be women and were transferred to the Washington Correctional Center for Women. An employee of the facility said that a woman was raped by a male sex offender who was brought over from the men’s prison.
Attorney Mary Rice Hasson, from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said that “biological sex – and the difference between males and females – matters, in law, in medicine, and (for many of us) in the practice of our faith.” Hasson discussed the negative effects of the Equality Act on privacy and safety of girls and women; faith-based adoption and foster care agencies; and faith-based homeless shelters, food banks and domestic violence shelters.
Hasson told Senator Durbin that the act showed “hostility to religious believers and religious organizations, seeking to coerce people of faith to exit the public square unless they trade their religious beliefs for the reigning ideology of today.”
Related articles and resources:
Video of Senate Judiciary Committee hearing
Focus on the Family: Understanding Homosexuality
Photo from hrc.org