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Archives Equality Act is neither equal nor tolerant

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

March 31, 2021

Editor’s note: H.R. 5 – Equality Act. The bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation. It passed in the House of Representatives on February 25, 2021 by a vote of 224-206. The bill is now on the US Senate agenda.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote an informative article entitled, Stand Against Unjust Discrimination: Oppose the Equality Act, in which he acutely demonstrates that the Act is not about equality nor tolerance. (See the article at Stand Against Unjust Discrimination: Oppose the Equality Act (thepublicdiscourse.com.) The Equality Act, while purporting to have the noble goal of protecting vulnerable people, burdens consciences, eliminates religious freedom, and fosters an intolerance for beliefs that are sincerely held by faithful Christians. Instead of calling us to respectful tolerance of differing views, the Equality Act forces a “highly contested understanding of human nature on all people,” while labeling alternate understandings as intolerant, ignorant and destructive. Cardinal Dolan urges us to learn about this legislation and to oppose it. I encourage you to put his article on your “to read” list.

Cardinal Dolan begins by explaining the Christian understanding of sex and gender, which is at odds with the gender ideology underlying the Equality Act. The Church has always seen one’s identity as being inseparable from one’s body, explains the Cardinal. We are a unity of body and soul. Christians see sexual difference as a fundamental dimension of human life and that the complementarity between male and female finds meaning in the flourishing of human life. The Scriptures and our Tradition build on the understanding of marriage as a fruitful and loving union between male and female. “Christianity,” Cardinal Dolan writes, “becomes incomprehensible if we accept that marriage is based merely on strong affection or that gender can be untethered from biological sex”. For Christians, our existence as a person and our sexuality are inseparable, for our sexuality is a gift from God who created us as a male or female.

Gender ideology presents a counter anthropology, which claims that one’s given body can somehow contradict one’s sexual identity. It can refer to a person’s belief his or her sex assigned at birth does not match their gender identity. The gender ideology underlying the Equality Act seeks to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Andrew Walker in his article, The Equality Act: Bad Policy that Poses Great Harms, states while purporting to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination, the Equality Act would discriminate against those who do not agree with an understanding of human nature that denies sexual complementarity. “It would thus create a new form of discrimination by socially isolating certain beliefs,” he writes (The Equality Act: Bad Policy that Poses Great Harms - Public Discourse (thepublicdiscourse.com).

Cardinal Dolan goes on to point out that not every American will accept the Christian view of sexuality, which is deeply rooted in natural law. Some will not accept the Christian understanding of the human person. His goal is not to impose the Christian view of the human person or sexuality on anyone, although he would be happy if he were able to persuade others to see the wisdom of such views. Neither does he want the gender ideology underlying the Equality Act imposed on anyone. Cardinal Dolan objects to the way that the Equality Act ends dialogue about human sexuality and the human person. The Cardinal states, “One of the great benefits of living in a free society…is that we can reason together about how best to live…with our differences. Pope Francis offers much wisdom… when he teaches that dialogue allows us the room to seek the truth together in a pluralistic society.” Cardinal Dolan is asking that Christians be allowed a place in the dialogue about such important matters.

The Cardinal is not exaggerating when he states that the Equality Act is discriminatory and coercive. “The Equality Act seems to go out of its way to target religious. It exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),” a bill that says that if the government is going to burden religious, it needs to have a good reason and needs to show that there is no other way to avoid the imposition it places on religion. “So, if a Catholic women’s shelter decides that it would be best not to house a biological man who self-identifies as a woman in the same space as women who have suffered domestic abuse, that ministry would not be protected under the Equality Act.” Christian hospitals that refuse to perform abortions are threatened with loss of government funding or licensing. A Catholic nurse will not be allowed to follow his or her conscience in deciding whether it is moral for him or her to assist in a medical procedure that is against their religious beliefs.

The bottom line is that the Equality Act does not treat people equally and it is not tolerant of the beliefs of religious people. We believe that all people, even people we disagree with, should be treated with dignity and respect. Christians believe that individuals with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria should be accepted and treated with love. At the same time, we should not allow religious people, who have serious questions about the transgender political movement to be silenced or marginalized. Christians have a unique contribution to make to our understanding of sex, gender, and morality. No law should seek to take away, threaten, punish, or limit the right to take part in the dialogue. I encourage you to read Cardinal Dolan’s article and make your opposition to the Equality Act known.

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