We’re here today for a hearing on the Equality Act. The Equality Act, is meant to stop discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.
Laws to end hateful discrimination can be tailored to prevent injustices in various contexts, like banking or housing, and thereby end those injustices. But this bill is drafted in an entirely different way. It would fundamentally manipulate how our society deals with sex, gender, and faith.
We all agree that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of race, sex, gender-identity, religion, politics, you name it. We’re all human beings and need to treat each other with kindness and compassion. I question whether that is what this bill truly does. I strongly suspect that it actually would dictate what women, girls, schools, churches, doctors, and others must believe.
I want to hear from experts and ordinary Americans with life experience. We need to consider the perspectives of everyone who will be affected by this bill’s sweeping language. We need to hear from physicians, whose professional judgment may be overridden by the federal government if this bill is adopted.
We need to hear from the occupants of homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, or correctional facilities in jurisdictions where anyone currently can request a transfer based on gender identity. How would the Equality Act deal with these sex-specific facilities that involve no hateful discrimination?
Still other perspectives will help the Senate better understand what would happen to certain basic services on which many Americans rely, if this Act is adopted. For example, what will happen to Catholic or Methodist-affiliated hospitals, which provide excellent services to the public, if this bill is enacted? In some areas these facilities may be the only hospitals for miles around.
If a faith-based organization has partnered with a community to provide social services that would otherwise not exist, like a soup kitchen or an adoption agency for hard-to-adopt special needs children, what happens to the people who relied most heavily on those services? To whom do they turn?
We need to have a genuinely bipartisan discussion about all these issues at today’s hearing. Dismissing the challenges for women and girls, and the need to protect religious freedom of conscience is no way to conduct a legislative hearing.
I want to share the story of one of the many people we should be keeping in mind as we consider this legislation: the mother of a young student athlete, Chelsea Mitchell. Chelsea is a star high school athlete in Connecticut. She told us she’d like to retain the right to compete on equal footing against other biological girls. Instead, this accomplished athlete has been forced to compete against biological men.
Many women and girls before her fought for the legal protections under Title IX, which recognizes that sex-specific distinctions are appropriate in some instances. As a father, a grandfather, and a husband, I have celebrated the athletic successes of talented young women in my own family. So I also am deeply concerned about this Act’s potential negative implications for all girls and women in sports.
I have a letter from Chelsea’s mom, and I’d like to request its inclusion in the record, along with a number of other personal accounts. I hope that at today’s hearing, voices like Chelsea’s will not be drowned out.
We’ll hear from two witnesses for the minority. Ms. Shrier is a Yale-educated attorney and an independent journalist who is here to tell us all the ways that the Equality Act, far from treating Americans equally, will treat women and girls unequally.
Of course, the Title IX, or sports, issue speaks to just one problem this bill potentially presents for women and girls. This is an important issue. But it’s not the only issue. Ms. Shrier will explain the extreme and far-reaching implications of this bill, which extend well beyond what this hearing’s title suggests.
I also look forward to hearing from Ms. Hasson, an attorney too, about the bill’s unprecedented gutting of religious freedom protections. I hope that she can help us understand how the Equality Act would override the protections we enacted under the landmark Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was championed in the other chamber by then Congressman Schumer, adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support, and signed by President Clinton.
All these issues merit careful analysis and extensive deliberation by our chamber. I hope the concerns of women and girls, and of Americans of faith, will be treated with inclusion and respect.