'Equality Act' would turn back the clock for women

'Equality Act' would turn back the clock for women
© Getty Images

On Wednesday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives reintroduced legislation to rewrite federal nondiscrimination law. How? By adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes throughout the federal code. Its operative text is fairly short — shorter than many bills Congress considers — and with a virtuous name, “Equality Act,” who would want to oppose it?

The answer should be anyone who wishes to preserve the vital gains women have made toward equality under the law and in our culture. Contrary to the gender identity advocates who are pushing the act, being female is not about wearing dresses, adopting other feminine stereotypes, or “feeling female.”

ADVERTISEMENT

This difference became clear recently in Connecticut, where two male high school students who identify as female raced against superb girl athletes at a women’s track meet — and trounced the girls. When asked what they thought about the girls losing to them, one’s advice was telling: “Run faster.” But by that standard, there shouldn’t be any separate sports for women. Women just have to run faster, jump higher and tackle harder.

As women’s tennis legend Martina Navratilova recently said in the Sunday Times of London: “Letting men compete as women, simply if they change their name and take hormones, is unfair — no matter how those athletes may throw their weight around.” Considered one of the best female tennis players of all time, Navratilova is a lesbian-rights activist but bluntly called out this male invasion of women’s athletics as “insane” and “cheating.”

Codifying the Equality Act into federal law means that American women will lose out on crucial opportunities protected after the hard-fought efforts to enact Title IX, which provides for equal educational opportunities for women.

But this isn’t just about a male-tilted playing field. If gender-identity ideology becomes the law of the land, women in all walks of life will suffer the consequences of the blatantly sexist notion that a man who adopts stereotypical feminine roles, behaviors or clothing must be treated in all respects as a woman.

ADVERTISEMENT

Gender ideology strips away my privacy rights and safety. When I head for the ladies’ room after dinner or the locker room at my gym, I expect — and federal law currently permits — these spaces to be safe from intruding males. This is not a partisan issue: Feminist lesbians who disagree with me about almost everything agree with me on this point, but have been shouted down within their communities because they insist that women’s private spaces are for women. Yet there are real, durable differences between men and women, so much so that when the U.S. Supreme Court told the Virginia Military Institute to accept women cadets on equal footing with the men, it nonetheless said that separate privacy facilities should be maintained.

We all can agree that individuals with gender dysphoria deserve compassion and dignity, but no amount of self-perception can make a man a woman, nor change the reality of what being a woman is. My privacy, my daughter’s privacy and my mother’s privacy simply don’t depend on what a man thinks about his gender.

But gender-identity advocates demand compliance without exception. In Alaska, the Downtown Hope Center for the homeless faces potential punishment because it decided that a drunken, bleeding, belligerent man — wearing a dress and claiming to be female — should not sleep in the single, open room that serves as their overnight women’s shelter. Instead, the center’s employees encouraged the man to seek medical attention and even paid for his taxi to the hospital; however, Anchorage used its local “equality act” ordinance to insist that the center must house the man with the women. That means that women who have emotionally or physically abused by men would have to sleep within a few feet of a man.

Our British cousins are showing us what resisting legally imposed gender-identity ideology looks like, with stories of police questioning, arrest and property seizure for simply verbalizing beliefs about basic biology that don’t conform to gender-identity ideology.

Even our common language is not safe. Twitter now plays speech police by expanding its “hateful conduct” policy to ban “misgendering” and “deadnaming” — that is, referring to individuals by their biological sex and/or legal name. In the months since, it has shunned a Canadian journalist and even blocked or deleted tweets from individuals sharing their own stories of detransition.

Gender-identity ideology demands pronoun newspeak. Similar state and local “equality acts” have been used to support firing a high school teacher and demoting a professor who failed to endorse transgender ideology. As Princeton University professor Robert P. George notes, “Ordinary authoritarians are content to forbid people from saying things they know or believe to be true. Totalitarians insist on forcing people to say things they know or believe to be untrue.”

It doesn’t stop there. First Amendment advocates point out that “equality acts” in states and cities are wielded as weapons to silence creative professionals who serve all but cannot in good conscience communicate every message — particularly messages affirming others’ claimed genders or same-sex marriages. These laws and their spin-offs are used to censor counselors; silence filmmakers, painters, graphic designers, and cake artists who make a living through their arts; and shut down faith-based adoption agencies. So much for the American freedom to live your life in line with your conscience.

Millions of American women hold to basic principles of privacy, sexuality and marriage. For many of us in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, our faith informs our views on mixing with the opposite sex in privacy areas and prevents us from expressing a message or celebrating an event contrary to our faith. This legislation is bad news for everyone, and no token carve-outs or religious exemptions can relieve the array of wrongs advanced by the Equality Act.

Forced equality of a false reality is not the American way, and it should not become the American way. Long ago, George Orwell poignantly rejected the idea that “some citizens are more equal than others.” Congress should do no less: It should reject the Equality Act and protect women’s privacy and support equal opportunity for women. The federal government should not turn the clock back on women. We should encourage our representatives to oppose the so-called “Equality Act” and instead support true diversity, tolerance and freedom.

Kristen Waggoner is senior vice president of U.S. legal division for Alliance Defending Freedom.