What does it mean to be an American?
It’s an odd question. You could probably ask every American citizen in the country that question right now and you’d get as many disparate answers. It should come as no surprise; the country was founded on the premise that all would be welcome regardless of their place of birth, religion, history or ideas. But when I ask myself that question I come up with a very simple answer: to be an American means to be free.
To listen to conservative politicians, pundits and media outlets tell it this week, the very foundation of that American freedom is under attack. Granted, that’s the case every week according to these groups, but the culprit this week is the very aptly titled Equality Act that is currently going through the rounds in Congress.
Just what is the Equality Act? According to Missouri Representative Vicky Hartzler, it would bring about the death of women’s rights. In a column you can find on this very site, our own U.S. Rep Lance Gooden suggests it will threaten the very foundation of freedom of religion, which I guess means the U.S. army will come knocking on the door of your church this Sunday, round you up, and put you next to the migrant children in cages as they await deportation. Not to mention, it would also create an explosion in abortions as doctors treat pregnancy with the same degree of favorability as that time my brother accidentally got hit in the head with a baseball and had to get three staples in his head. Televangelist and 700 club host Pat Robertson even suggested that the passage of this bill may even bring about a Godly nuclear strike of America.
“If you want to bring the judgment of God on this nation, you just keep this stuff up,” Robertson said last week. “I was reading in Leviticus that because of these things, the land will vomit you out. I think God will say I’ve had it with America if you do this stuff. There’s plenty of stuff going on when you look at atomic war, when you look at solar strike, something on our grid there, you can go down the line of devastation that could happen to our nation.”
In other words, Armageddon is at hand. But maybe not for other nations, though. Canada’s probably safe. It usually is.
But what, then, could be in such a heinous piece of legislation that would threaten the very fabric of this nation that has stood as a beacon to the world for hundreds of years? The answer is a couple of words added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That’s right, by extending civil rights to gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, the country will undoubtedly be undone.
You may question why such a law is necessary. Perhaps you know a gay person at work and have never seen him discriminated against. Indeed, how could discrimination be such a problem for the LGBTQ community when only six percent of Americans think such discrimination should be legal and the vast majority (over 70 percent in most polls) think that there should be anti-discriminatory laws at the federal level to prevent such discrimination? David Cicilline, a U.S. representative from Rhode Island provides the answer.
“Today in most states, you can get married on Saturday, post your wedding photos on Facebook on Sunday, and get fired from your job or kicked out of your apartment on Monday just because of who you are.”
He’s right. While 20 states in the U.S. have implemented laws preventing the discrimination of LGBTQ Americans in simple but necessary areas like housing and employment, the other 30, including Texas, do not. And while many employers and landlords do not discriminate against LGBTQ Americans, the fact is if they wanted to do so there are currently no protections or provisions in place that could stop them. Just because you haven’t seen it or experienced it yourself, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. And unfortunately in nationwide polling, over two-thirds of LGBTQ Americans say they have experienced some form of discrimination during their lifetime.
The Equality Act is designed to address this glaring problem by adding the words sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act, which currently bans discrimination based on sex, color, race, religion and national origin. That’s it. It does not, in fact, have anything to do with abortion, the freedom of religion, or nuclear holocaust. Those statements are demonstrably false will not go unchallenged in this publication.
Currently the Equality Act has been passed in the House of Representatives and will advance to the Senate. With 240 cosponsors and widespread support from LGBTQ activists, civil rights activists, American business leaders, and just everyday Americans, the bill has the most widespread support of any bill involving LGBTQ anti-discrimination policies ever has. It technically has bipartisan support with Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehinen and Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins listed as cosponsors. Even President Trump suggested that the Civil Rights Act should extend to gays and lesbians way back in 2000, an extremely progressive opinion at the time considering the country’s views on gays and lesbians during that period.
But despite all of this, it would take nothing sort of a miracle for this legislation to pass and become law. While it’s almost certain the bill will pass the Democrat-controlled House, the bill would need at least 14 Republican votes to pass the Senate to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. So wedding cake makers, church elders, hysterical congressmen, and U.S. servicemen concerned about an impending nuclear strike of Biblical proportions need not worry; America’s right to discriminate is currently safe.
At its core The Equality Act is actually a very simple bill. It wouldn’t lead to an explosion of abortions. It wouldn’t attack America’s founding principle of the freedom of religion. It probably wouldn’t even lead to Armageddon. The only right it would take away from churches, charities, employers, landlords, and any other institution in the country would be the right of discrimination. In fact, to protest such a simple provision is not unlike the Ku Klux Klan protesting the original Civil Rights Act because they were losing their right to discriminate against black Americans.
The real point of The Equality Act is to answer a simple question: what does it mean to be an American? It means different things to different people. But a pretty high-profile American once wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
I agree with him.