Recently, the Equality Act (HR 5) passed the U.S. House, basically along party lines. Of the eight Republicans who crossed party lines, Susan Brooks is the only one from Indiana who supported the legislation.
The Equality Act would end discrimination still faced by the LGBT community in 30 states. Even in the 20 states with LBGT protections, Republicans voted no. Politics?
So why is the Equality Act needed? Contrary to popular belief, it's legal to discriminate against LGBT people, especially the trans community, in the majority of this country. President Barack Obama's administration tried to correct this; but what one president does, another can undo.
The Trump/Pence administration has been busy. From not accepting complaints to not enforcing regulations, the administration has set the tone. It's also been busy rewriting regulations. In October 2018 the Department of Justice filed a brief in the case of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., petitioner v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al. saying the EEOC was wrong and Title VII civil rights protections do not apply to transgender people.
Let that sink in. The federal government says a class of people have no civil rights.
In April 2019, the Department of Justice and five states came out against the Affordable Care Act section 1557. Section 1557 protects transgender people and people who have terminated a pregnancy.
Why is that important? The Rev. Pat Robertson has an opinion.
“This is a devastating blow to religious freedom and to the sanctity of America,” Robertson said, citing a common criticism of the Equality Act: If a religious store manager gets sued for firing a transgender employee or a religious doctor faces discipline for refusing to treat a gay person's broken leg, then their religious freedom has been violated.
On May 2, the Department of Health and Human Services announced its final “conscience rule,” excusing health care personnel from participating in procedures to which they have religious or moral objections. When going to the doctor, the last thing on your mind should be whether the doctor, staff or hospital will treat you.
Unless it's happened to you, it never crosses your mind. Ever had a nurse, everything is fine, then read your file, move to stand in the doorway and ask you your vitals? You can't make this stuff up. I've got more ...
What about religious freedom?
Since the Equality Act amends existing laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the religious exemptions built into those laws will stand. Also, the act would not regulate what ministers could preach or force them to perform any ceremony conflicting with their faith, and church properties would be exempt from its public accommodations provision as long as they were made available only to members of the faith, not the general public.
Since when does someone's right to housing, employment, medical care and access to public spaces get trumped by one's religious views? Maybe I should rephrase that: When is it a religious right to discriminate against someone? I watch the battle taking place in the Methodist church regarding LBGT members, and I'm disappointed. To watch a church split over the ability to hate one's brother and not love one's brother is disappointing.
As for the dreaded restroom rights bills? These are really about controlling access to public spaces. Without a restroom, the amount of time and activities you can partake of in public are limited. Unfortunately, it's been masculine women who normally bear the brunt of these laws. While I've never been challenged over the past 31 years, I've had butch friends challenged.
If more people remembered the golden rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – maybe we would all be better off.
Melissa Damerell is a Fort Wayne resident.