This is not the first time that the Equality Act has been proposed in the House of Representatives. It first passed the House in 2019 with a total vote tally of 236-173 but was blocked by Senator McConnell in the senate. However, it was reintroduced and passed the house on February 25, 2021, with no Republican support. The purpose of the Equality Act is to prohibit “discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system.” It also allows people to use a shared facility in accordance with the individual’s gender identity. This bill shouldn’t be controversial, but we have seen significant pushback from Republicans including Marjorie Taylor Greene and others.
Rep. Greene has been in the news a lot recently regarding her outlandish comments about the 2020 election, Jewish space lasers, QAnon, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. However, her recent comments about the Equality Act have struck a nerve with many LGBTQ+ advocates. On the house floor, she stated, “the Equality Act is not about stopping discrimination, it’s about causing discrimination against women and religious freedoms.” She firmly believes that prohibiting discrimination against individuals based on their sexuality or gender identity is discriminating against religious people. This is an interesting debate because it involves the conflict of rights, but if we go by the writing of political philosopher John Stuart Mill it is violating his harm principle. John Stuart Mill writes in his book “On Liberty” that individuals have the right to free speech and expression until it harms others. I would argue that discriminating against individuals for who they are, is significantly harming their rights and therefore violates the harm principle. I have no problem with religious views, however, when people use their religious beliefs to discriminate against others, we need to draw a line.
In response to these comments by Greene, Rep. Marie Newman placed a transgender flag across the hall from Greene’s office. This debate is significantly personal to Rep. Newman as her daughter is transgender and responded by saying “Our neighbor tried to block the Equality Act because she believes prohibiting discrimination against trans Americans is ‘disgusting, immoral, and evil…’” Green responded by putting up a transphobic sign outside her office that said “There are TWO genders: Male & Female. Trust The Science!” She followed this by tweeting “As mothers, we all love and support our children. But your biological son does NOT belong in my daughters’ bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams.” Bringing up someone’s child in a political debate is disgusting and disrespectful but attacking someone’s transgender child isn’t something anyone should ever do. This assumption that people using the bathroom of their gender identity are only doing this to commit sex crimes is an imaginary crime and simply doesn’t happen. Sex crimes are still illegal, and this transphobic talking point deeply demeans people for just being who they are.
The Equality Act should not be controversial and should have bipartisan support. However, it’s clear that the Republican party still has a long way to go in terms of inclusiveness and sensitivity. In fact, in the 2020 GOP platform, they urge the reversal of the supreme court decision that legalized gay marriage across the country. The Equality Act faces an uphill battle in the Senate if it is to be enacted, but we need to continue pushing for this important legislation. This act will help create a more welcoming environment for people who have been demonized consistently throughout history.