Today, February 25, 2021, the US House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 5, (aka The Equality Act) that will extend civil rights protections outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to members of the LGBTQ community. Passage of the landmark bill will prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. While a similar bill was passed last year in the House, it failed to be passed in the Republican-controlled Senate. This year, it is unclear if the new Democratic-controlled Senate will have the votes to pass it into law. However, if it does pass, President Biden has vowed to sign the bill into law.
Supporters of the bill – including many faith-based organizations and religious leaders (see full list below) – say that it only codifies what the Supreme Court has already ruled. On June 15, 2020, the Court ruled that LGBTQ individuals must be protected from discrimination in the work place. For them, passage is a matter of “loving one’s neighbor, even those you disagree with” Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, understands passage of the bill as central to the Biblical tenet of “welcome.” “If all are welcome, all are to be protected,” she told the Center for American Progress. However, there is strong opposition to the bill from religious conservatives. In an email blast, Franklin Graham, President of Samaritan’s Purse, called the bill “a very dangerous piece of legislation” and “a threat to life as we know it in our nation today, and a threat to “the religious freedoms we have been blessed with for so long.”
The division within the church over the Equality Act is reminiscent of church divisions about the full inclusion of Gentiles and definitions of “clean” and “unclean.” A vocal minority rejected the official decision of the Early Church Council to give full welcome to Gentiles and made frequent attempts to rebuild the “Gentile Wall.” However, the official trajectory of the church continued toward welcome.
For generations, there has been an “LGBTQ Wall.” Over the past 50 years, there have been attempts to break the wall, but the passage of the Equality Act would ensure that the wall is never rebuilt and that LGBTQ folk will be welcomed as full participants in public life. The question remains: Will the Church continue the trajectory of welcome as it did in the book of Acts, or will it spend its resources on efforts to rebuilt it? And which side will you be on?
The following religious organizations are among those who endorse passage of H. R. 5: The Episcopal Church, The United Methodist Church, The United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, More Light Presbyterians, African American Ministers in Action, The Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Muslims for Progressive Values, the Hindu American Foundation, and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Resource: USA Today