Column: Equality Act a welcomed update to civil rights laws

Lindsey Ulrey

The Equality Act was passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday with the support of all Democrats and three Republicans. The Equality Act would ban discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity. It will also considerably increase the areas to which those discrimination protections apply.

Biden promised that this bill would be one of his top priorities in the first 100 days of his presidency. In a statement Biden wrote, “I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation. Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all.”

When the Equality Act is explained like that it seems like a no-brainer to pass it. On the other hand, opponents to the Equality Act worry that it will infringe on religious freedom. “It protects the rights of one side but attempts to destroy the rights of the other side,” Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, wrote to NPR. “We ought to protect the liberty of both sides to live their own lives by their own identities and their own values.”

Another concern amongst opponents of the Equality Act is that it could threaten companies or organizations which have religious objectives to serving LGBTQ+ people, forcing them to choose between operating or following their beliefs.

This bill would be a huge step forward, but I predict that it will be filibustered in the Senate. “Senator Romney believes that strong religious liberty protections are essential to any legislation on this issue, and since those provisions are absent from this particular bill, he is not able to support it,” his spokesperson told The Blade.

“Rob opposes discrimination of any kind, and he also believes that it’s important that Congress does not undermine protections for religious freedom,” Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s office said in a statement. “He will review any legislation when and if it comes up for a vote in the Senate.”

“It also does these other things that I think many people are surprised to learn that federal law doesn’t do,” said Naomi Goldberg, deputy director of the Movement Advancement Project.

“Federal law doesn’t prohibit discrimination in retail stores based on race, it doesn’t prohibit discrimination in any place of public accommodation based on sex.”

Our society has evolved since 1964 and so should the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is time for updates and the expansion of America’s civil rights policy.

 

Lindsey Urley is a freshman political science major. She ca be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]