The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission knew coming into 2021 that the completely misnamed Equality Act would be a priority for some segments of the culture, and as the year comes to a close, the bill remains a top legislative priority for our organization.
This legislation represents one of the most significant threats to religious liberty we have ever encountered. If passed, the bill would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage, undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls, and substantially harm religious liberty protections in the United States.
We believe it is essential that a solution in the public square be crafted that protects and upholds the dignity of all people, while ensuring that religiously motivated individuals and institutions are free to live and act according to their deeply held convictions. The ERLC opposes this problematic bill and has sought to bring attention to its alarming implications through a variety of means.
Beginning with our 2021 Public Policy Agenda laying out our policy goals at the federal level, numerous explainers equipping Christians with information about the bill and how it will change our society, and witness testimony on Capitol Hill in March, this has been our consistent focus.
In February 2021, H.R. 5, the Equality Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 224-206, and in March, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Equality Act. This bill has rightly garnered significant coverage and controversy as it seeks to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code.
Key to the ERLC’s message in opposing the legislation is that America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have been able to live at peace with one other. This bill would undermine fundamental protections that allow Americans of good will to disagree with one another without penalizing those with dissenting beliefs.
Interestingly, this sweeping bill was voted on in the House without a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee. The bill first passed the House in the 116th Congress, but did not receive a hearing or floor vote in the Senate under a Republican majority. Currently in the Senate, Leader Schumer (D–N.Y.) used a Senate tool entitled “Rule 14” to be able to bring the bill to the floor at any time, but thus far he has not yet done so. Many analysts believe that the efforts of the ERLC and other conservative peer groups to bring attention to the disturbing aspects of the Act have stalled momentum for the legislation in the short term.
The ERLC is actively engaging lawmakers on the harms of the Equality Act as well as countering attempts to pass components of the bill’s desired policies in other legislation and will remain committed to this advocacy in the year ahead.
Key resources on the Equality Act:
- Written Testimony of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary Hearing on H.R. 5
- What is the Equality Act?
- ERLC Opposes the Equality Act
- Explainer: House votes in favor of the Equality Act
- Will the Equality Act be the end of female sports?
- The Equality Act: A dangerous law with a clever name
- The Equality Act Conundrum
- The Equality Act Accelerates Anti-Christian Bias