Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Soul of Liberty As the Equality Act Gains Ground

This still has to pass the Senate, but it's arguably one of the bigger deals the Democrats have gotten done (other than a COVID relief bill we're still waiting on dammit) as they pass a historic Equality Act in the House (via Danielle Kurtzleben at NPR): 

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also substantially expand the areas to which those discrimination protections apply.

It's a bill that President Biden said on the campaign trail would be one of his top legislative priorities for the first 100 days of his presidency. The House vote was largely along party lines, passing with the support of all Democrats and just three Republicans. The bill now goes to the Senate, where its fate is unclear...

The Equality Act would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bill has been introduced multiple times before and previously passed the House in 2019. However, the law's impact would be different in practical terms now than it was then.

That's because the Supreme Court ruled in June of last year, in Bostock v. Clayton County, that the protections guaranteed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the basis of sex also extend to discrimination against lesbian, gay, and transgender Americans. The logic was that a man who, for example, loses his job because he has a same-sex partner is facing discrimination on the basis of sex — that, were he a woman, he wouldn't have faced that discrimination.

This act would explicitly enshrine those nondiscrimination protections into law for sexual orientation and gender identity, rather than those protections being looped in under the umbrella of "sex." However, the Equality Act would also substantially expand those protections.

The Civil Rights Act covered discrimination in certain areas, like employment and housing. The Equality Act would expand that to cover federally funded programs, as well as "public accommodations" — a broad category including retail stores and stadiums, for example...

One upshot of all of this, then, is that the Equality Act would affect businesses like flower shops and bakeries that have been at the center of discrimination court cases in recent years — for example, a baker who doesn't want to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Importantly, the bill also explicitly says that it trumps the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (commonly known by its acronym RFRA). The law, passed in 1993, set a higher bar for the government to defend laws if people argued those laws infringed upon religious freedom...

What this law is trying to do is overrule any religious bigotry that would taint our citizenry's right to, you know, live like normal people.

One of the shameful elements of evangelical or conservative religious groups is how they use their Faith as an excuse to be hateful, in many ways defying core tenets of Grace and Charity that much of our Judeo-Christian-Islamic beliefs require from their followers (also any core tenets for Hindus and Buddhists I would hope. As a Unitarian Universalist I'm aiming for inclusivity, brah). It's that excuse that alienates more people from accepting religion, as one of the reasons over the years why people have been walking away from churches as those faiths become more identified as biased as hell.

Again, we're waiting on the Senate to take up this bill and hold a vote - pending the likely filibustering that's still baked into the system, what the hell Democrats get rid of that damn thing - but we're one step closer to equality and liberty for more Americans. That long arc is bending towards justice again, thank God.

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

The filibuster has to go.

-Doug in Sugar Pine