Terry McLaughlin: Americans (and women) deserve better | TheUnion.com

Terry McLaughlin: Americans (and women) deserve better


“The establishment of civil and religious liberty was the motive that induced me to the field of battle,” said America’s first president, George Washington. The Constitution may guarantee religious freedom, but the bill HR-5, which has moved to the Senate after passage in the House, seems to view religious liberty as an impediment to progress.

The deceptively named Equality Act “updates” the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was passed primarily to combat racism, by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes akin to race.

The legislation guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, by eliminating conscience protections from the Civil Rights Act. If enacted it would force employers, educators, medical professionals, and religious organizations to, among other things, allow men into battered-women’s shelters, pay for or perform sex-change operations, and engage in speech that violates their consciences.

It is so extreme that University of Virginia law professor Douglas Lavcock, a supporter of same-sex marriage, told The National Review that “it regulates religious non-profits. And then it says that the RFRA does not apply to any claim under the Equality Act. This would be the first time Congress has limited the reach of RFRA. This is not a good-faith attempt to reconcile competing interests. It is an attempt by one side to grab all the disputed territory and to crush the other side.”

The expansion by HR-5 of the definition of “public accommodations” under Title II of the Civil Rights Act to include “any establishment that provides a good, service, or program, including a store, shopping center, online retailer or service provider, salon, bank, gas station, food bank, service or care center, shelter, travel agency, or funeral parlor, or establishment that provides health care, accounting, or legal services,” means that many more individuals and establishments would become liable to discrimination claims.

Rather than finding common-sense ways to shield vulnerable Americans from truly unjust discrimination, the Equality Act would persecute those who don’t embrace gender ideologies that defy what is literally written into our genetic code and are fundamental to many of our laws, particularly those protecting the equality, safety and privacy of women.

HR-5 subjugates the hard-won rights of women to biological men who identify as female. If enacted, men could “not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.” HR-5 would create a nationwide transgender policy that could affect not only locker rooms, but women’s shelters and prisons.

In testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Abigail Shrier, author of the book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” reported that the Washington Correction Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Wash., recently implemented a policy to house prisoners based on their gender identity. A female inmate was raped shortly after the transfer of some biological men to the women’s prison.

Shrier contends that the Equality Act would allow this scenario to be repeated across the country because the bill does not define or restrict who is to be considered a transgender person. In her testimony, Shrier provided a sober warning: “For generations, women like the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought to create sex-based protections to make life safe and fair for women. If you vote to take away those rights, don’t pretend you have achieved a civil rights victory. In the name of inclusivity, you will have made life far less safe, far less fair, and far less inclusive for America’s women and girls.”

Biological men would have the right to compete on women’s sports teams, effectively dismantling Title IX protections designed to guarantee that female athletes would have equal athletic opportunities as males.

A number of recent polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans recognize that it is fundamentally unfair to force young female athletes to compete against biological males.

HR-5 creates policies that are not only anti-woman, but anti-science, failing to recognize the real physical differences between men and women, boys and girls.

The reason women’s sports is a separate category in the first place is to ensure that young women have the opportunity to be on the podium and earn medals and scholarship opportunities. It takes only one biological male to swipe the championship title. It only takes three males to take the entire podium.

“Only one group is asked to bear this risk,” Shrier testified, “and it is always women and girls. No boys will suffer because biological girls enter their sport. But girls will lose material opportunities.”

Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, but the Equality Act actually legalizes discrimination and demolishes existing civil rights and constitutional freedoms by forcing every American to agree with government-imposed ideology on sexuality or be treated as a criminal. The Equality Act’s definitions alone would remove women and girls from protected legal existence.

Non-discrimination should not be a euphemism for violating the First Amendment.

“This bill undermines human dignity by threatening the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience that the First Amendment guarantees for every citizen,” said Kristen Waggoner, of the Alliance Defending Freedom. “Americans deserve better than the profound inequality that this intolerant, deceptively titled legislation offers.”

We should not be conned into believing that disagreement on matters such as marriage and human sexuality requires the government to enforce one view over another. We may disagree on many things, but we should be able to agree on the principle that our laws must preserve freedom for all.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.

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