Washington, D.C. — On Friday, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) announced the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives purportedly designed to provide greater federal protections for the LGBTQ community. While a cadre of conservative religious leaders have taken a step in recognizing the need to protect LGBTQ people from harm, the bill nevertheless falls seriously short of adequately addressing several key areas of concern and opens avenues of discrimination against the LGBTQ community and other groups.
Earlier in this session of Congress, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 5, the Equality Act. This landmark legislation has the support of scores of faith and civil rights leaders from across the country. The Equality Act ensures comprehensive and explicit protections for LGBTQ communities, while expanding protections for others groups and preserving the country’s existing framework of civil rights and religious freedom. Despite bipartisan support for this critical legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to schedule a vote on the Equality Act in the Senate.
Following the bill’s introduction on Friday, Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement:
Among the government’s most important responsibilities is protecting all people from discrimination, and LGBTQ communities continue to suffer the harms of discrimination without the full and equal protection of the law.
While the recognition of the basic humanity of LGBTQ people and their need to be free from discrimination is a step forward, this proposal does not fully address the realities of discrimination against LGBTQ people and instead provides pathways for that discrimination to continue unchecked.
Legislation like this bill, which allows for discrimination in health care settings and taxpayer-funded services, enables small businesses to turn people away because they are LGBTQ, a woman, or a religious minority and upends the child welfare system in ways that deny young people the security of a good home. This is not a model forward for how to address the problem of discrimination.
Our nation’s civil rights laws must be treated with great reverence, and we oppose any legislation that co-opts these protections to do harm, as this bill does.
People of faith from all over the country support full LGBTQ inclusion in our civil rights laws, and comprehensive legislation that has significant backing from both faith organizations and the civil rights community has already passed one chamber of Congress. We urge the Senate to swiftly take up and pass the Equality Act.
Maggie Siddiqi, director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at CAP, also released a statement:
While we welcome new faith groups to the movement for LGBTQ equality, numerous faith leaders and faith communities from across the country have already endorsed the Equality Act in order to provide full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and other protected groups.
As people of faith, we care deeply about our religious freedom and about equality for our LGBTQ community members, and we believe that the Equality Act affirms both rights. It is false to suggest that one right must be compromised in order to fulfill the other.
We urge faith-based organizations who support LGBTQ civil rights to affirm that support by endorsing the Equality Act.
For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Adam Peck at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcepaor 202-741-6363.