This Equality's All an Act
June 19, 2020
After Monday's wildly off-base decision, most liberals should have been out celebrating. But despite being handed a judicial gift -- an LGBT victory they'd have never managed democratically -- Democrats didn't stop to party. They were already back on the Senate floor, demanding more. Now that they've got the Supreme Court taking a match to religious liberty, they're apparently hoping Congress will finish the job.
They're the Party of Never Satisfied. Democrats, who couldn't get Congress to go where SCOTUS did, isn't even stopping to savor the moment. Like Obergefell, they're already on to phase two: turning what's left of Americans' freedom to a pile of smoldering ash. As far as they're concerned, it wasn't enough that six justices magically redefined human biology. Or that faith-loving Americans are about to be legally tormented like never before. After Monday their goal is bigger: using the court's decision to bash through whatever religious barriers to their agenda still exist. And the "Equality" Act is the way they plan to try.
There's just one problem -- Americans were never on board with these changes in the first place. And if they wanted Congress to act, it certainly wouldn't be to make things worse. But this is about tolerance, the Left will say. Americans want to end discrimination, they'll argue. Well, of course they do. We all do. But not when "ending discrimination" means a drag queen in every library, a man in every girls' restroom, or an atheist teacher in every Christian school. As most conservative senators argued yesterday, the only "equal" thing about this idea is how much damage it does to every facet of American life.
Senate Democrats, who apparently believe six people's opinion makes a national consensus, tried on Thursday to fast-track their bill to wipe religious freedom off the map. It was a bold move, considering that most Americans were still in shock over the fact that the court bypassed Congress to elevate "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in the first place. That will already, FRC's Travis Weber pointed out on "Washington Watch," spark years of litigation. But liberals want to eat their cake and force you to bake it too.
Fortunately, under the Senate's rules, you can't hotline a bill if even one Senator objects. And Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) dutifully pushed on the brakes. In stirring speeches that spelled out the scope of this devastation, they looked at their colleagues across the aisle and asked what happened to civil disagreement? What happened to coexistence? Why, Senator Lankford asked, are you pushing a piece of legislation that decides the rights of one side matter more than the rights of the other? "We in America have tried to be able to find those spots, where the rights collide of the two individuals and to be able to work it out among each other." That's impossible, he points out, when you take religious freedom off the table.
And protecting religious freedom, Hawley points out, wasn't just conservatives' idea. "[The Religious Freedom Protection Act] was sponsored in the House by then-Representative Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and it was sponsored in this chamber by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and signed by President Bill Clinton into law... It was bipartisan is my point. To put it mildly..." Now, he shakes his head, Democrats are the ones who want to "steamroll" it as part of this process. Why, he wanted to know? So that liberals can force taxpayers to pay for abortions and gender reassignments against their will? So that doctors and nurses will have to participate against theirs?
What about adoption agencies, Hawley pressed on, "some of which had been helping birth mothers find a safe and loving and permanent home for more than 100 years? It would force them out of business. It would coerce those who don't want to speak or who hold different beliefs into adopting this set of practices and principles and beliefs at work... These doctors, these nurses, these faith-based agencies, I submit to you that this is not the way to find consensus in America. This shunting aside of the constitutional rights of sincere, well-meaning people of faith is not the way to proceed."
"We, in America," Senator Lankford insisted, "have tried to work together in all of our differences... to accommodate one another. The Equality Act does not do that. I wish it did. It changes everything dramatically." And Americans are no more ready for that than they were for a handful of unelected judges to change the course of history. This lawlessness has to stop, and it's Congress's job to try.
For more on the SCOTUS fallout, check out my Washington Times op-ed, "Justice Gorsuch Botched Bostock v. Clayton County Ruling on Homosexual and Transgender 'Rights.'" Also, get the real facts about H.R. 5 in FRC's "The Inequality Act."
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.