Mythbuster: The Equality ActBy Megan Clayton • May 8, 2020 • 1:25 pm
In recent years, there has been historic momentum for federal nondiscrimination legislation. In May 2019, a comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill passed a chamber of Congress for the first time. The Equality Act would update federal law to include express and enduring nondiscrimination protections for Americans based on sexual orientation and gender identity across virtually every area of daily life.
Despite this major step forward, some anti-LGBTQ activists are spreading lies and misconceptions about what the Equality Act does and doesn’t do. Below are the facts.
MYTH: This bill infringes on women’s rights by allowing transgender people to use facilities that match who they are.
FACT: The Equality Act explicitly ensures that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in their daily lives.
That includes public places like movie theaters, restaurants, parks, public transportation, and coffee shops – nothing more. It’s already expressly illegal under federal law to engage in criminal activity in a public space, and the Equality Act doesn’t change that. That’s why advocates for women, like the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and the National Women’s Law Center, support the Equality Act.
MYTH: The Equality Act removes existing civil rights protections from non-LGBTQ people including people of color and people who lack U.S. citizenship.
FACT: The Equality Act keeps in place all existing protections in the Civil Rights Act of 1964—and expands federal nondiscrimination protections.
It actually updates federal law to expand the kinds of businesses that cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, and sex. That’s why the NAACP and the National Black Justice Coalition support the Equality Act.
MYTH: The bill is opposed by religious institutions and people of faith.
FACT: More than 70 religious institutions and faith groups have explicitly endorsed the Equality Act.
A wide range of faith traditions and practices support the Equality Act, including the Episcopal Church, The United Methodist Church, The United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, More Light Presbyterians, African American Ministers in Action, The Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Muslims for Progressive Values, the Hindu American Foundation, and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
MYTH: This bill would cause harm in schools by allowing transgender students to use facilities that match who they are.
FACT: 21 states and hundreds of school districts across the country have prohibited discrimination against transgender students for decades.
And they’ve done it while successfully ensuring that all students have safe and equal access to educational opportunity. The Equality Act will simply ensure these guarantees to all our nation’s students regardless of zip code. That’s why the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the National Association of School Superintendents support the Equality Act.
MYTH: This legislation will allow boys to compete on girls’ sports teams.
FACT: Schools across the country, including in twenty-five states that have formal guidelines, have for years been successfully ensuring a level playing field for all while being inclusive of transgender youth.
The Equality Act does not change that. What it does do is ensure safe and fair access to educational opportunities for all our nation’s student athletes regardless of their zip code. That’s why sports advocates like Athlete Ally support the Equality Act.
MYTH: The Equality Act forces unfair standards onto employers, and unreasonable fines for those who do not comply.
FACT: Hundreds of businesses large and small have endorsed the Equality Act, including major American brands such as Amazon, Marriott, and Salesforce.
They know from experience that prohibiting discrimination is not only the right thing to do, it is the economically smart thing to do. Laws permitting those who have been harmed by wrongful discrimination to sue employers or businesses for damages they have suffered have been on the books for many years for all kinds of illegal discrimination, including race discrimination. This legislation only permits such lawsuits in very specific cases. Nearly 90% of Fortune 500 companies already have longtime LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies in place because they all agree that supporting these protections isn’t just the right thing to do, it is the economically smart thing to do. Hundreds of businesses have endorsed the Equality Act. They would not support these protections if it put businesses at a significant financial risk. No one will ever be fined for treating LGBTQ people with dignity and respect. This legislation simply guarantees LGBTQ Americans safe and equal access and opportunity to jobs and services.
MYTH: Protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination violates the First Amendment rights of people of faith.
FACT: Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are fundamental American values – that’s why they are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The Equality Act doesn’t change that. The Equality Act simply ensures that when employers, businesses, and others serving the public are operating for non-religious or commercial purposes, they can’t turn an LGBTQ person away simply because of who they are. That’s why people of faith, including the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Disciples Justice Action Network, support the Equality Act.
MYTH: This bill is unprecedented and would create social upheaval.
FACT: Twenty states, Washington, D.C. and nearly 300 cities, towns and counties have comprehensive laws on the books protecting LGBTQ people from nondiscrimination.
Many states and localities have had these protections for decades without any uptick in negative incidents; and none have reported any problems. These protections simply allow LGBTQ people to go about their lives with dignity and respect, and cause harm to no one. That’s why hundreds of mayors around the country support the Equality Act.
Seven million LGBTQ Americans currently live in one of the 29 states across the country that lack clear and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections ensuring they will be treated with dignity and respect while trying to go about their daily lives, contribute to their communities, and take care of their families.
Fortunately, support for protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination is growing exponentially; nearly 70 percent of Americans across all faith traditions, political perspectives, demographic backgrounds, and geographical locations support these protections. At Freedom for All Americans, we welcome people on this journey. The historic movement to pass federal nondiscrimination legislation is proof that our efforts to build bridges are succeeding, and we look forward to working with allies from all walks of life to pass the strongest possible federal legislation as soon as possible.