Joe Biden said in an interview this week that he would “make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days – a priority that Donald Trump opposes.”
Earlier this week, the magazine The Economist warned Democrats that the Equality Act, a bill establishing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes in federal law, is too extreme. The act “risks discriminating against female Americans,” according to The Economist, by forcing girls’ and women’s sports teams to compete with and against biologically male athletes who identify as female.
What the editorial didn’t mention is that the act is also a threat to religious liberty. “It goes very far to stamp out religious exemptions,” University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock told National Review last year. “It regulates religious non-profits. And then it says that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] 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.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its Bostock decision that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination in employment also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and “transgender status.” Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the majority opinion, noted that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was one possible source of protection in federal law for religious dissenters. (The Equality Act would go a step further than Bostock by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination at public accommodations. It would also expand the list of public accommodations covered by federal law.)