Last summer, gay and transgender Americans across the nation celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
As titanic as that ruling was, it didn’t go far enough. Which is why the Human Rights Campaign and other groups are pushing for passage of the Equality Act, a federal bill that would update the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other laws to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The Supreme Court ruling only decided on employment law,” said Angela Hale, a spokeswoman for Equality Texas, which has joined the national effort to pass the bill. “The Equality Act is much broader and goes across the rest of American society — housing, finance, education, public accommodations such as retail and other areas of law that have not been litigated. It will ensure that every person in America will be treated equally under the law, including LGBT people.”
As sure as heat in a Texas summer, those opposed to expanding protections for gay and trans folks have ginned-up their scare-tactics machine, spewing forth specious arguments about how such rights would destroy life as we know it.
Exhibit A: The Heritage Foundation, which claims the Equality Act would, among other canards, push women out of sports, force doctors to treat patients against their will and trigger a wave of assaults on children in public restrooms.
Such allegations are based on “misinformation and false understandings about LGBT folks, especially transgender people and transgender children,” Hale said.
Indeed, back in 2017, when Texas became a national laughingstock over its transgender bathroom-bill — which, mercifully, died — police chiefs from all major cities said the specter of women and children being attacked in bathrooms by men masquerading as women is a lie. It just doesn’t happen.
In fact, Hale said, transgender people are the ones at risk in bathrooms, not the other way around.
The Equality Act already has passed the House with bipartisan support. Next it goes to the Senate, now in the control of Democrats. Hale said chances are good it will pass there and President Joe Biden will sign it.
Nonetheless, her group is also supporting a bill to be filed during the 2021 legislative session by Texas Democratic lawmakers that would extend legal protections to LGBTQ residents. Texas is among 22 states that lack such a state law.
“We believe having both state and federal law is the best way to ensure all Texans are treated fairly,” Hale said. The law is needed even for cities like San Antonio, with its own nondiscrimination ordinance, because countless people who live outside the city’s boundaries are left out.
As far as LGBTQ rights infringing on religious liberty, here’s a useful thought experiment: Replace “LGBTQ clients” with “African American clients.”
After all, it was religion, specifically the Bible, that was used to rationalize racial discrimination, indeed the very edifice of slavery, in our country’s darkest history. Sexual orientation and gender identity are every bit as embodied in a person’s soul and psyche as their race.
As the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis stated, those who use religion to deprive LGBTQ of their rights indulge the same impulse that hurt Black Americans for centuries.
“Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry,” he wrote.
Congress must pass the Equality Act to drive a legal stake through intolerance and further bend the moral arc of justice.
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