The most recent incarnation of a decades-old piece of repeatedly failed LGBT legislation has once again reared its head in the Trump administration: the 2017 Equality Act.
According to NBC:
Forty-six Democratic senators led the charge to propose the legislation on Tuesday, along with 194 members of the House. An introduction ceremony in Washington, D.C., was led by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, openly lesbian Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and a slew of LGBTQ advocates.
“People will still discriminate if it’s illegal. But it should not be legal to discriminate,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay congressman from New York. “We are the last group of Americans for whom it is legal to discriminate against.”
What the bill effectively does is rewrite federal discrimination laws to equate sexual orientation and gender identity with race and sex.
Yes, while tilting at the most pro-gay Republican president in the party’s history, one who promised to protect the religious liberty of his base from legislation like this, the Democrats now have a cause célèbre to make liberal Republicans squirm and inaccurately paint POTUS as an enemy of “equality.”
But the real question at hand is, equality for what? We are all equal citizens with equal protection under the 14th Amendment – as warped as that principle has been by liberal judges. We all have the same liberties guaranteed under the Bill of Rights as well. We all vote, barring a felony conviction. So what still remains there to make equal?
The surface-level answer is to make sexual orientation and gender identity legally equal to things like race and sex as already spelled out and codified in previous civil rights acts. The problem is that sexual orientation and gender identity are not fixed, or apparent – as is the most recent orthodoxy on the issues. These are therefore not equal to fixed, immutable, and apparent traits by their nature. So trying to make the former group equal to the later by force of fiat is little more than man attempting to change nature with a pen stroke – mere folly.
These points and arguments have been prevalent for over two decades. Here’s a deft explanation by The Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Ryan Anderson. Arguments like these have so far resonated, as some form of this bill has been introduced in nearly every Congress since the early 1990s and has failed at every turn (except for when the Seventh Circuit’s jurists seem content to blatantly legislate it from the bench).
What this act really seeks to make equal is the evangelical cake-baker with the proprietor of a segregated lunch counter in Selma or Birmingham decades ago — to make the same federal hammer that was used to break up Jim Crow laws equally powerful to smash through the human conscience and penalize millennia-old teachings on sex and the human person.
The NBC story claims that “it’s legal for a business to put a sign in the window saying ‘no gays allowed.’” But is this really a problem? Do such signs even exist? One has to wonder if anyone peddling this talking point has ever run a small business or taken a basic economics class, or if this law would effectively combat anything except what Hans Fiene calls “Selma envy.”
Even without these proposed laws, we still have a free society and a functioning market. There are no Jim Crow laws, no laws upholding slavery, and there is more than enough cultural momentum against those who hold traditional views on these issues to drive any small business owner into the red with a concerted effort. This just streamlines the process by giving Uncle Government the ability to shut businesses down by force.
This bill also effectively makes the entrepreneur a disadvantaged class in favor of a preferred one, by making freedom a one-way street. It is based on the idea that once people engage in a business, they must sign over their freedoms of belief and association to Uncle Government in favor of a leftist orthodoxy.
What this act is and has always been about is coercion, just as laws that espouse “clean air” and “clean water” are far more about giving government more control over the environment. “Equality” here – however sincerely believed by its proponents – is more about giving those same officials the power to regulate and penalize your conscience.