Last month, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement opposing the equality act on the grounds of protecting religious freedom.
On March 13, Rep. David Cicilline introduced the 2019 version of the bill. The bill passed through the House and was read twice in the Senate, according to Congress’s website.
The equality act proposes changes to Title VII and other laws in order to protect LGBT community members from discrimination.
“Short answer, we don’t really know (how the act could affect religious education at BYU-Idaho),” said John Thomas, a religious education professor. “There seems to be concern that adding sexual orientation and gender identity, as a group protected from discrimination in Title IX, would make it likelier that some religious schools and other organizations would not be able to receive federal contracts or funds.”
According to Time, many Americans believe it’s already illegal to discriminate against the LGBT community. However, there are no explicit laws defending people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Students should care about vulnerable members of the population, including LGBT people, Thomas said. They should reach out to be inclusive and protective of others in order to eliminate the need for sweeping laws.
It is important to not only support and advocate for religious education but also for equal treatment, including those who do not have the same views of Latter-day Saints, according to the Church’s statement.
“The Church calls upon members of Congress to pass legislation that vigorously protects religious freedom while also protecting basic civil rights for LGBT persons,” according to the Church’s statement. “It is time for wise policymakers to end this destructive conflict and protect the rights of all Americans.”
Twenty-one Christian conservative leaders wrote a letter to Congress stating that the bill poses significant threats to religious liberty.
“Under its changes to the employment nondiscrimination provisions in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, some houses of worship would be barred from ensuring their leaders and other employees abide by their beliefs about marriage, sexual behavior, and the distinction between the sexes,” according to the letter.
The Human Rights Campaign raises support for the bill.
“Federal law does not provide consistent non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the human rights campaign website. “The need for these protections is clear — nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ Americans report having experienced discrimination in their personal lives.”
The Human Rights Campaign Business Coalition for the Equality Act supports the bill. The Coalition comprises of 220 companies with $4.7 trillion dollars in revenue. These companies employ over 11 million people in the United States.
“Everyone should have a fair chance to earn a living and provide a home for their families without fear of harassment or discrimination,” according to the Human Rights campaign website.
Students who oppose the equality act can take the religious freedom class (FDSCI 213), Thomas said. This class goes over the nitty-gritty issues and shows students that there does not have to be a conflict between religious conservatives and LGBT people, Thomas said.
“If they have misgivings about this bill, as I do, they should support bills that try to resolve real concerns for LGBT advocates and for advocates of religiously conservative individuals and institutions,” Thomas said.
The original equality act was introduced by former Rep. Bella Abzug and former United States Rep. Ed Koch, in 1974. The original act sought to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but it did not proceed to a vote in the United States House of Representatives, according to Congress’s website.
In 1994, former Rep. Gerry E. Studds introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This bill referred to a subcommittee and never progressed past that point, according to Congress’s website.
In 2013, an expanded version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was passed through the Senate but did not advance in the House.