In a show of solidarity during “Pride Month,” House Democrats unanimously threw their support behind the so-called Equality Act, an LGBT-rights bill with serious safety and privacy implications for girls and women.
The bill, cosponsored by Democrat Rep. Mary Peltola of Alaska, would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title II by adding “transgender status” and “sexual orientation” as protected classes, expanding its scope to all public accommodations.
The bill explicitly states that public accommodations includes female-only facilities such as bathrooms, locker rooms, salons, and domestic violence shelters. These would be open to men who demand entry by declaring themselves women, according to this legislation.
One concern raised by opponents is the bill’s impact on religious liberty. The Equality Act is written in a way that supersedes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Schools, churches, and other religious institutions would not be exempt. For instance, a Muslim school would be required to allow boys who want to be known as girls to be allowed in girls’ changing rooms.
It would also apply in Anchorage to the Downtown Hope Center, a faith-based cold-weather shelter that houses women at night, keeping them off the streets and out of the hands of their abusers and traffickers. The Downtown Hope Center has successfully fought through courts to be allowed to keep transgenders out of the facility at night for the safety of the women.
The inclusion of “gender identity” in the bill says individuals cannot be denied access to restrooms and changing rooms, based on their self-identified gender, which could change at any time.
Critics cite the potential for conflicts already arising in women’s sports as males who identify as transgender competing against women and compromising fair competition.
While the Equality Act passed the House in 2021, it faced hurdles in the Senate due to the filibuster and the lack of support from Sen. Joe Manchin. This year, a companion bill in the Senate has the support of every Senate Democrat except Manchin. The Senate has a razor-thin majority of Democrats.
If House Democrats regain control in 2024 and maintain a favorable majority in the Senate, they are expected to prioritize the passage of the Equality Act. For now, the bill has been sent to a number of committees, where it is expected to stall.
Peltola also voted in April against a House resolution that has further protections for women’s and girl’s athletic teams, to ensure that females are not disadvantaged by transgenders competing in their category.