Members of the Republican Freedom Caucus said they oppose the Democrats’ Equality Act because the legislation goes against the liberties outlined in the U.S. Constitution and would give the federal government the power to dictate how American think and act regarding gender and sex, infringing on citizens’ religious rights.
“This body being led by Democrats is trampling on the rights of the American people in the name of equality, in the false name of equality,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) at a Freedom Caucus press conference on Thursday.
The Freedom Caucus is a group of conservative representatives that say they “support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety, and prosperity of all Americans.”
The Equality Act 2021 prohibits discrimination due to gender identity or sexual orientation. House Democrats narrowly passed the bill on Thursday afternoon 224 to 206 with the support of three Republicans. It now heads to the Senate.
While Democrats support the bill and say it is past time to give the LGBTQ community equal rights in all areas of employment, education, credit, jury service, federal funding, housing, and public accommodations, Republicans say it would in some situations force people of faith to go against their beliefs and again penalize people who think differently about gender and sex.
“This isn’t a free society. This is a government is using its power to tell us to bow down to the will of a cultural elite in this town who want to tell us what we’re supposed to believe,” Roy said. “Both of us, [my wife and I] dip, scrape, and save to pay our kids to go to a private Christian school. Why? Because we’re being pushed into the corner, so that we can carry out our beliefs without penalty.
“Our federalist system allows us to agree to disagree and we should be able to do that. But if this Democratic congress and if the Democratic leadership and if this White House continues to trample the rights of the people of the United States, then it is they who will be destroying this union,” he added.
Conservatives say the Equality Act in its current form risks trampling on religious freedom and forcing every citizen to agree with government-imposed ideology on sexuality or be punished by the law. Freedom Caucus members say they will oppose the legislation.
“We’re going to oppose this bill. We’re going to fight this bill in the Senate,” Roy said. “But it made perfectly clear, you pass this legislation, it is not with the consent of the governed.”
Republicans have criticized Democrats for seeing the bill bypass the committee process and go directly to a vote.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats will work to pass the bill into law as soon as possible.
“The Democratic House will now swiftly pass this landmark legislation and will keep working until it is finally enacted into law—so that we can combat anti-LGBTQ discrimination that undermines our democracy and advance justice in America,” she said in a written statement.
President Joe Biden praised the Equality Act in a Feb. 19 written statement after it was introduced by Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) a day earlier.
“I applaud Congressman David Cicilline and the entire Congressional Equality Caucus for introducing the Equality Act in the House of Representatives yesterday, and I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation,” Biden said at the time.
The Bill is expected to have a harder time passing the closely tied Senate. Democrats will need support from 10 Republicans to meet the 60 vote threshold required to break a filibuster.