When elected, President Biden announced that the Equality Act would be passed within his first 100 days in office, but now, as the 170th day of Biden’s presidency approaches, the LGBTQ community remains unprotected under the Civil Rights Act.
The addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act would mean that LGBTQ-identified individuals could not be barred from any public accommodations. These accommodations usually refer to transportation, hotels, restaurants and bars. However, churches are in murky territory. If a religious site rents its space out as a community center, then it may fall under the umbrella of the Equality Act and would therefore have to provide the same services to LGBTQ patrons as non-LGBTQ patrons.
The simple idea of churches having to serve the LGBTQ community as they claim to serve their own community is enough to unhinge hyper-religious individuals like conservative activist and author Mary Rice Hasson. In March, 2021, Hasson spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee in regards to the Equality Act.
“The Equality Act attacks First Amendment, inserting language that attempts to tip the scales against believers if they assert claims under the First Amendment or Equal Protection,” Hasson said.
Hasson has continued to push her beliefs that transgender and nonbinary persons should not have their preferred pronouns honored and would not be welcome in most church functions. Viewed by most as a common courtesy, not using an individual’s preferred pronoun is personally demeaning and can have a lasting negative impact on self esteem.
Lecturer at the University of Sydney, Christopher Pepin-Neff, stresses, “LGBTQ groups demand too little, too often.” Pepin-Neff shares his theory that Washington is doing nothing more for the LGBTQ community than the LGBTQ community can do for itself. He says that it is groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that truly have their boots on the ground.
Although President Biden has accomplished some positive LGBTQ-related legislation, there is no real reason for the Equality Act to continue being stalled. In 2020, the Supreme Court granted the LGBTQ community a major victory by amending the Civil Rights Act to protect queer individuals within the workplace, but that does not offer the protection that members of the LGBTQ community need in their daily lives.
The church, the state and the LGBTQ community may never agree, but unanimity is not required for a decision. Pepin-Neff and other Equality Act advocates are calling for this bill to be prioritized, and passed, as soon as possible.
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