Conservative groups are pushing back as several House Republicans attempt to pass a watered-down version of the Equality Act.
Republican Utah Rep. Chris Stewart recently introduced the Fairness for All Act, which would attempt to codify LGBTQ protections into law, while also protecting religious liberty. Stewart’s office did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.
Earlier this year, House Democrats unanimously supported a bill that would, among other things, require public schools to include biological males on female sports teams, if they identified as women. The Equality Act garnered several Republican votes as well, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already poured cold water on the bill, indicating that it would not come up for a vote in the Senate. (RELATED: Here Are The Two Republicans Who Co-Sponsored A Bill To Allow Male Athletes To Compete In Women’s Sports)
Now, some Republicans are offering a lifeline to Democrats who are looking to force the Senate and the White House’s hand. The Fairness for All Act would prohibit LGBTQ discrimination in places of public accommodations, but would also include special carve-outs for religious organizations. But will this bill be able to sufficiently protect religious freedom? Can you even protect religious freedom while simultaneously codifying LGBTQ protections into law?
“This is Equality Act light,” Travis Weber, Family Research Council’s vice president for policy and government affairs told the Daily Caller. “There can’t be any compromise between the claims and demands of the sexual revolution and true religious freedom under the First Amendment. What they are asking is incompatible with religious freedom.”
Other conservative groups feel the same way, feeling that Stewart’s bill does not do enough to protect religious liberty, while catering to left-wing interest groups that despise social conservatives.
“Like the Democrats’ so-called ‘Equality Act’ which it is seeking to replace, FFA would upend American society by radically altering civil rights law,” American Principles Project Executive President Terry Schilling said in a statement. “And despite including some exemptions, it would still seriously endanger the conscience rights of Americans seeking to live by their faith, for whom relatively few protections are offered.”
John Stonestreet, a guest columnist for the Christian Post wrote that the bill is well-intentioned, but that ultimately sexual orientation and gender identity do not demand the same protections that immutable characteristics such as race and sex. (RELATED: Why Social Conservatives Don’t Trust Likely Georgia Senate Pick)
“The Act would enshrine into law something that simply is not true, and for Christians that’s got to be a non-starter: that alternative sexual orientations and transgender identity are equal to race, that they are somehow immutable, something someone is born with,” Stonestreet wrote.
Heritage Foundation staffer Andrea Jones called Stewart’s bill “misguided” in an article for The Daily Signal.
“The Fairness for All Act adopts the faulty reasoning of the Equality Act, treating all disagreement about the nature of marriage and the biological basis of sex as illegal discrimination,” Jones wrote.
Indeed, the premise of Stewart’s bill appears to be the same as the Equality Act. Social conservatives and people of faith are tired of hearing that their objections to alternative lifestyles and a rapidly changing culture are motivated by feelings of bigotry or a desire to hurt or discriminate against others, and they are tired of politicians who claim to share their values going to Washington D.C. and compromising them. (RELATED: Conservative Leaders Hit Back At Chick-fil-A For Betraying Christians, Donating TO SPLC)
“The claims of the movement they want codified into law demand approval of a whole host of sexual practices that violate the practices of Christians, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and others,” Weber said of Stewart’s bill.
So, how do left-wing groups feel about the Fairness for All Act? They don’t appear to be anymore enthusiastic about Stewart’s bill than conservative groups are.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately issued a statement in opposition to the proposal, attacking its exemptions for religious organizations.
“Far from being about fairness for everyone, this bill facilitates efforts to allow taxpayer-funded discrimination, undermines existing civil rights protections, and gives a green light to turning LGBTQ people away from jobs, health care, housing, and more,” Ronnie Newman, National Political Director for the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement on the organization’s website.
The LGBTQ activist group the Human Right’s Campaign (HRC) also took a blow torch to Stewart’s proposed legislation, calling it an “affront” to civil rights. (RELATED: Health And Human Services Department To Roll Back Obama-Era Transgender Rule)
“The Fairness for All Act is anything but fair, and it certainly does not serve all of us,” HRC and several other left-wing organizations said in a statement. “It is an affront to existing civil rights protections that protect people on the basis of race, sex, and religion and creates new, substandard protections for LGBTQ people with massive loopholes and carve-outs, and upends critical federal programs that serve children in need.”
In an attempt to satisfy both sides of a contentious issue, it appears that Stewart instead did the opposite. Conservative groups worry that the legislation still tramples on religious freedom, while left-wing groups believe it doesn’t go far enough.
“This is an attempt that tries to satisfy everybody, but ends up satisfying nobody,” Weber said. “It shows a mistaken approach in trying to satisfy the demands of these movements.”
“The bill’s approach needs to be scrapped entirely,” Weber continued.
The Fairness for All Act is not likely to become law anytime in the near future, but its approach will frustrate religious conservatives who don’t feel represented in the nation’s capital.