Last month, H.R. 5, the Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 224-206, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor of the legislation. The legislation 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. 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.
For more on this problematic bill and its alarming implications, see this previous explainer from the ERLC staff as well as this helpful resource page with articles, podcast episodes, and our policy brief.
The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” However, the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity. If passed, the bill would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage and would undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls.
This bill would also substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. 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.
What will happen next with the Equality Act?
The Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the Equality Act this Wednesday. Due to the Democrat’s narrow control of the Senate, it is possible that the Equality Act will be voted out of committee, making it eligible for a vote on the Senate floor. However, under Senate rules, 60 votes are required to overcome the filibuster when the Senate is considering new policy. In its current form, H.R. 5 would likely fall short of this threshold.
The ERLC is actively engaging lawmakers on this issue. We will continue promoting and defending the dignity and religious liberty of all people on Capitol Hill, before the courts, and in the public square.
H.R. 5 is out of step with basic American ideals. It seeks to end debate on critical issues by using the legal system to crush ideological opponents. Equality cannot be achieved by eliminating fundamental freedoms.
How else might the Equality Act become law?
The ERLC is closely monitoring efforts by the LGBT lobby to append components of the Equality Act to other legislation under consideration by Congress through the amendment process. This includes spending or appropriations bills as well as legislation that is focused on other aims and objectives.
These efforts would also expand the definition of sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation or create new references to “sexual and gender minorities.” Depending on the context, such language can pave the way for the government to have the power to punish faith-based agencies charged with serving our nation’s most vulnerable children or undermine hard-fought protections for women and girls.
As the ERLC works to inform members of the U.S. Senate on the harms of the Equality Act, we will also combat attempts to pass components of the Equality Act in other places. This week, join us in praying that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will see clearly, perhaps for the first time, the myriad problems the Equality Act would create.