The legislation prevents religious freedom claims from being made by individuals and groups under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The landmark 1993 law has been invoked by many as a defense against various government mandates, but the Equality Act would override those religious freedom protections.
During House debate over the legislation, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) said the bill "dismantles Title IX" protections for girls' sports. Religious adoption agencies in several states have already been shut down because of mandates that they place children with same-sex couples, she said.
"The Equality Act stipulates that religious beliefs and faith no longer matter in the Democrats' new world order," Hartzler said.
The bill would override conscience protections for health care workers, said Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.). The act would "force both people and organizations in everyday life and work settings to speak and act in support of gender transitions, including health care workers and licensed counselors, even when it's against their professional judgement," she said.
Under the act, "it is Washington, D.C., that ultimately decides the morality of our children and our churches," Herrell said.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Pro-life groups have also warned that the legislation could expand taxpayer-funded abortion, as it amends civil rights law to forbid "pregnancy" discrimination. Thus, they say that women seeking abortions under the law could claim discrimination if they are denied an abortion.
"Tragically, this Act can also be construed to include an abortion mandate, a violation of precious rights to life and conscience," the bishops wrote in their Feb. 23 letter.
The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List called the bill a "Trojan horse" that upholds "a 'right' to abortion," as it "equates abortion with pregnancy and childbirth."