Legislation that would add sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is making its way through the United States House of Representatives having gained 240 cosponsors.

As drafted, H.B. 5 is intended to prevent discrimination in public accommodation based on sex as well as identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) in business, adoption and foster care, and transportation. The bill’s stated purpose is, “to expand as well as clarify, confirm and create greater consistency in the protections and remedies against discrimination based on all covered characteristics and to provide guidance and notice to individuals, organizations, corporations, and agencies regarding their obligations under the law.”

The bill has met with opposition from an interesting range of religious and feminist groups who feel that the bill could require people to act against their religious beliefs, or potentially blur the legal lines of gender by allowing biological male athletes who identify as women to dominate traditionally women’s sports.

The Board of Directors of the Women’s Liberation Front (WOLF), issued a statement on March 13, 2019 in opposition to the gender identity provisions of the Equality Act, warning that the Act would require public facilities to allow men who identify as women to access women’s locker rooms, “enshrining in federal law a shocking repudiation of the long-established right to bodily privacy from the opposite sex, through the lawful provision of single-sex accommodations.”

The statement continues:

“For the sake of the feelings of some individuals with gender identity claims, the Equality Act demands that law and custom ignore the feelings of girls who don’t want to see naked men in their showers, ignore the feelings of adult women who want the right to intimate medical care from another woman, and ignore the feelings and dignity of women who don’t want to share emergency shelters or prison cells with men. Worse, it brands these women and girls despicable, uneducated bigots.”

“The gender identity provisions of the Equality Act will forbid the law to see sex while legitimizing sex stereotypes, and by doing so, they will destroy the law’s ability to fight sexism, or protect women from male harassment and violence. The concept of gender identity is not only unrelated to sexual orientation, in some respects, it is directly contrary and undermines the ability to prevent discrimination and harassment against same-sex attracted individuals.”

WOLF concludes by asking that the gender identity provisions of the bill be withdrawn.

Religious organizations that operate foster care and adoption agencies have also expressed concern that they would face closure if required to place children with non-heterosexual couples.  They have cited the example of New Hope Family Services, a faith-based adoption provider which is presently appealing a federal court’s decision to dismiss  the organization’s lawsuit against New York officials who are attempting to shut down the agency because it prioritizes placements with heterosexual married couples.

This federal legislation is passing on a strictly partisan basis through the House of Representatives and may meet resistance in the Senate.  Similar laws are already in place in several states.

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