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H.R.5 “The Equality Act.”

This week I want to diverge from my musings on Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti. I would like to dive into the dicey world of politics. Specifically, I want to bring attention to bill H.R. 5 in 2019 entitled “The Equality Act.” This bill is currently being discussed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

I rarely appeal to the parish for political action. I am doing so in this case. I am asking you to write to the President and the legislature to vote against the Equality Act.

First, should a Catholic Pastor be involved in discussing politics? Yes, with certain caveats. I expressed my thoughts on this in a Flocknote response in September of last year. I shall post full text of my rationale included in that response on my website FrZlock.com.

What is the Equality Act? The Equality Act is a comprehensive bill in Congress that fundamentally deals with discrimination and civil rights. The current bill, H.R. 5 / The Equality Act, includes new gender identity rules. It would add the categories of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the definition of “sex” and add “sex” where it is not already present in a range of federal nondiscrimination laws. The bill’s authors made clear that gender identity is to take precedence over and replace sex as a protected category.

 This would broaden the intent the Civil Rights Act of 1964, would affect policies affecting government employment statutes, fair housing, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and jury selection rules.

Why is this important? This new language in the current version of The Equality Act could have dramatically negative effects on Catholic and non-Catholic schools, Churches, and other houses of worship.

 

Sources: For the sake of transparency, my comments below are drawn from two documents:

US Equality Act: Gender Identity Impact Summary. Making “gender identity” a protected characteristic under federal law would erase the protected category of sex. (Summary sheet by www.womensliberationfront.org; www.handsacrosstheaislewomen.com; www.concernedwomen.org. Posted on my website, FrZlock.org)

Questions And Answers About The Equality Act Of 2019 Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Religious Liberty Issues (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Posted on my website, FrZlock.org)

 

History and Background: The bill deals with Title VI of the (Federal) Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, and national origin. The Equality Act would make “gender identity” a protected characteristic under federal law and would erase the protected category of sex.

On the surface, the current proposed legislation seems to be exercising compassion. Yet, hidden in the current version of The Equality Act is language that explicitly exempts itself from the requirements and protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (§ 9). This is especially troubling and unprecedented. No federal law has ever done so before. It demonstrates a denial of tolerance to people of faith who do not agree to the government’s view of sexuality as established by the Act.

For example, if Catholic schools receive any federal funding, this law could have profound negative effects on what could be taught in Catholic schools. It could also have an effect on defining what constitutes a hate crime. This might affect what we preach in our churches, especially in the areas of marriage and human sexuality. For this reason, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed its concern about this proposed legislation.

 

Other Potential Implications:

The Equality Act could take away the right of Americans to insist that only someone of the same sex be able to:

  • Perform security pat downs or strip searches.
  • Supervise locker rooms or shared showers.
  • Handle intimate care for hospital and long-term care patients.
  • Chaperone a doctor or medical assistant who is providing such care.
  • Perform intimate medical examinations.
  • Supervise drug tests.
  • Supervise children on overnight trips.

American people might no longer be able to expect any single-sex facilities when using or being required to stay in:

  • Shared hospital rooms or wards.
  • Locker rooms and public or group showers.
  • Multi-stall bathrooms.
  • Jails, prisons, or juvenile detention facilities.
  • Homeless shelters.
  • Overnight drug rehabilitation centers.
  • Domestic violence or rape crisis shelters.

 

Personal comment about sources: It is fascinating to note that the information above was gathered by a cooperative effort of the Women’s Liberation Front, (an American 501 non-profit radical feminist organization), Concerned Women of America (a socially conservative, evangelical Christian non-profit women’s activist group) and Hands Across the Aisle Women (“women across the political spectrum.. radical feminists, lesbians, Christians and conservatives, who are tabling our ideological differences to stand in solidarity against gender identity legislation.” … From their webpage). The fact that such highly divergent groups are so alarmed by this legislation, and are cooperating to defeat this bill indicates the misguided nature of the Equality Act.

What is the Catholic Position? We do not approach the topic of discrimination lightly. We do not come from a place of judgement. We are an institution founded on a God of love and mercy for all persons. As Catholics, we love and accept any and all people as members of our Church. For this reason, the Catholic Church is against discrimination in all forms.

As Catholics we are called to love and stand up for the truths revealed to us through Scripture and Tradition. Jesus Christ is at the center of this revelation. Jesus was fully human. Thus, the full blossoming of the human person is central to Catholic teaching. Thus, we come from a compassionate stance of defense of our God-given identities as male and female.

Please contact the President and your elected representatives. Ask them to vote “NO” for the Equality Act.

Thank you. Fr. Charles Zlock

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