“This radical bill is going to totally eliminate women’s and girls’ sports,” Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Arizona) warned in a Daily Signal op-ed, pointing out that the Equality Act, which passed the House 236-173 on Friday, would require not just schools but churches, nonprofits, and other institutions to allow biological males into women-only spaces like bathrooms and locker rooms, “even without any type of medical diagnosis or psychological diagnosis.”
The Equality Act enshrines “sexual orientation and gender identity” as a protected characteristic under the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits institutional discrimination – a measure that sounds uncontroversial enough, until its implications are fully digested.
“This bill hijacks the Civil Rights Act of 1964, erasing decades of progress for women across this country,” Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri) declared in a press conference held Thursday, a last-ditch effort to derail what she termed the “Inequality Act.”
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Florida) attempted to include an amendment to preserve Title IX protections, which require schools to provide separate athletic programs for women, but it was shot down by Democrats, all but one of whom embraced the bill as-is. Even Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois), the one holdout, was ultimately browbeaten into expressing his support following pressure from activists, and eight Republicans crossed party lines to vote in favor.
“The LGBT community has waited nearly 250 years” for a law like this, gushed Rep. Dan Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up the measure as soon as possible – though it’s unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, and President Donald Trump reportedly opposes it. Still, the bill’s defenders insisted female athletes had nothing to fear from the legislation, which would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, education, employment, and other areas.
“Many states have sexual-orientation and gender-identity non-discrimination laws, and all of them still have women’s sports,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) insisted, dismissing transgender athletes’ “competitive advantages” during a hearing last month, perhaps unaware that Connecticut, one of those states, awarded both first-place and runner-up in its most recent high school women’s 55-meter dash competition to biological males in the process of transitioning to female.
A trio of female ex-athletes including tennis star Martina Navratilova warned last month in a Washington Post op-ed that the bill would decimate women’s sports, dismissing the claims of those who believe “girls can compete and win against boys” as “simply a denial of science.” Despite her years of LGBT advocacy, Navratilova was eviscerated last year after she said men who “proclaim themselves female” should not be able to compete against women.