Ever notice the big gay loophole in the Civil Rights Act? It's great that we just won marriage -- but in most states you can still be fired, or kicked out of your home, or refused basic services on the basis of who you love or the gender you express. The Civil Rights Act prevents that kind of discrimination on the basis of race or religion or sex, but LGBTs are just out of luck.
But here's the good news: 195 Congressional Democrats just proposed a fix called the Equality Act, which would close the loophole and bar discrimination against LGBTs. There's only one group that doesn't like that: people who want to discriminate against LGBTs.
Now those people are making up all kinds of crazy reasons why the big gay loophole should be kept open and discrimination should continue forever. And of course, their reasons are all completely wrong. So let's knock em down.
Crazy claim #1: Equality is a "special privilege." This claim is coming from people like Ryan Anderson, who wrote that the Equality Act creates "special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity." Is that true? No! Let's look at what the Equality Act actually does.
In certain states, it's completely legal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. All the Equality Act would do is extend the existing protections of the Civil Rights Act to include LGBTs. Nothing special about that -- they're the same protections that everyone gets.
Not to mention, it's not a privilege to know you won't be fired if your boss finds out who you're married to. It's not a privilege to know your landlord won't kick you out for transitioning. It's not a privilege to pee in the correct bathroom. These aren't privileges, they're just basic day to day necessities that we should all have equal access to.
In other words, these "special privileges" are neither special nor privileges. (Discuss.)
Crazy claim #2: Nondiscrimination criminalizes Christianity.
No. That is nuts. Letting a lesbian get a credit card does not equal feeding Christians to lions. Everyone will always have the liberty to believe whatever they want -- but what they can't do is infringe on other people's liberty.
Look, we have wide latitude to practice religion in this country. That latitude stops where it hurts someone else.
That's because protect we protect beliefs -- but we don't protect actions that harm others, whether they're motivated by religion or not. For example, if a high school principal decided that their religion requires them to expel all the gay students, they shouldn't be allowed to do so, because denying students an education harms them. The principal is still free to believe that gay students are bad, but the student's right to get an education would be infringed by the principal's actions. That it's motivated by religion doesn't matter -- we've agreed for every other group that all students deserve equal access to education, no matter what.
Crazy claim #3: This law infringes on churches.
No. Churches always have been and always will be exempt from nondiscrimination laws that go against their beliefs. That's because of this thing we call The Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The government can't interfere with a church's free exercise of religion unless there's a compelling reason to do so -- for example, performing human sacrifice is not ok. Pretending to eat people, on the other hand? Go for it. And refusing to let same-sex couples marry might make them sad, but it's the church's prerogative to say no. There's no compelling reason for the government to interfere because a civil marriage and a religious marriage are two different things. The church's position doesn't have any bearing on the marriage's legal status.
And remember, the Civil Rights Act has barred discrimination on the basis of race and sex for fifty years, and churches have never been required to change their practices to conform to those rules. The Equality Act doesn't affect churches.
Crazy claim #4: Requiring companies to treat everyone equally is bad for business. Nondiscrimination is government intrusion and red tape that interferes with commerce.
Okay, that's just nonsense. Nondiscrimination is good for businesses, which is why some of the biggest businesses in the world -- Apple, Dow Chemical, Levi Strauss -- all support the Equality Act.
And it's not just the Equality Act. Remember when Indiana passed a "license to discriminate" bill? We lost count of all the companies that spoke out against that law. Gen Con, Salesforce, Subaru, Angie's List, the NCAA, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and many many more -- all agreed that treating people equally is simply good business.
Crazy claim #5: It'll confuse children.
Confuse children ... how? Treating people fairly isn't confusing. It's one of the first things kids learn. When someone says children will be confused, what they really mean is that they are trying to raise their kids to think queer people are different and bad, and they'll be confused when they see queer people being treated just like everybody else.
The fact is, kids aren't harmed, or even confused by the existence of LGBTs. But there IS a real harm to raising them to believe that they'll be isolated and punished and treated as inferior if they identify as queer. That has real consequences. Kids raised to expect rejection for being queer are at higher risk of substance abuse, homelessness, and suicide.
Making life hard for queer people isn't going to stop your kid from being gay. It's just going to make it more likely that your kid will kill himself. And if you're not worried about your kid being gay, what are you trying to protect? Your kid's idea about what men and women are supposed to be? Is that idea more important than the lives of real people?
Look, it's not often that a bill like the Equality Act comes along. A bill that makes everyone's life better, and doesn't harm anyone.
More than fifty years ago, this country agreed that nobody should be discriminated against because of the fundamental qualities that make them who they are. Times being what they were, some people were left out of that agreement. But the Equality Act will close the big gay loophole that has for fifty years let LGBTs slip through, losing their homes, their jobs, their education, their finances. Now, finally, we can close that loophole. We can fulfill the promise of the Civil Rights Act.
There's only one thing standing in the way: every single Republican in Congress. As of its introduction, the bill has zero Republican supporters. So let's change that. There's an election coming up, and you're not just voting for candidates. You're voting on the life or death of bill like these. You need to vote. So wherever you live in the country, vote out the bums. Support the ones who support this bill. The Equality Act isn't going to pass by itself. It needs us as much as we need it.