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Republicans Turn Fire on Equality Act As Democrats Renew Push: 'Biology Is Not Bigotry'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 2/24/2021 James Walker
a man standing in front of a crowd: Founder of Black Transmen Carter Brown (C) addresses a rally and press conference with members of Congress and fellow leaders from LGBTQ advocacy organizations before the House votes on the Equality Act May 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Equality Act was reintroduced to Congress in February 2021. © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Founder of Black Transmen Carter Brown (C) addresses a rally and press conference with members of Congress and fellow leaders from LGBTQ advocacy organizations before the House votes on the Equality Act May 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Equality Act was reintroduced to Congress in February 2021.

Republicans lashed out at the Equality Act after Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate reintroduced the LGBTQ+ civil rights bill with the approval of President Joe Biden.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) are spearheading the renewed push for the legislation. Cicilline formally introduced it to the House last week and it is due shortly in the Senate. The House will vote on Wednesday.

The bill passed the House in 2019 but progressed no further because the Senate then had a Republican majority. Now Democrats control the upper chamber, albeit only thanks to the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

Speaking on the House floor on Tuesday, Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-MN) said: "The reality of this bill is anything but equal. It is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to force unreasonable mandates on our institutions and restrict the liberties of the American people."

She added: "This bill will relegate the pro-life view to discrimination, redefine gender and require faith-based employers to pay for abortion in their insurance offering.

"I oppose this legislation on behalf of the unborn, who do not have a voice."

Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) said the bill would force medical providers to "surrender sound medical judgement" in favor of "politically fashionable dogmas."

Addressing the rights for trans Americans in the legislation, the congressman said gender reassignment procedures "often lead to irreversible damage" and complained that doctors would be exposed to legal liabilities if they refused to perform such operations.

He told the House: "As a physician, I took a sacred oath to do no harm and preserve the health of those in my care. If this bill becomes law, many doctors will be forced to go against both their conscience and their medical judgment.

"Make no mistake: this is a death sentence for medicine. Biology is not bigotry and medicine is not discrimination."

Posting on social media, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) said the bill imposed "a modern heresy code" on Americans and was at odds with the religious protections in the First Amendment.

"It imposes conformity, not tolerance," he tweeted.

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) wrote on Twitter: "The Dems' so-called 'Equality Act' would force schools and women's shelters to allow biological men into women's spaces, including women's bathrooms and locker rooms! This completely undermines women and girls' privacy!"

On the news that Cicilline and Merkley were reintroducing the Equality Act, Biden urged Congress in a statement "to swiftly pass this historic legislation."

"Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all," the president said.

"Full equality has been denied to LGBTQ+ Americans and their families for far too long. Despite the extraordinary progress the LGBTQ+ community has made to secure their basic civil rights, discrimination is still rampant in many areas of our society.

"The Equality Act provides long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, locking in critical safeguards in our housing, education, public services and lending systems—and codifying the courage and resilience of the LGBTQ+ movement into enduring law."

Newsweek has contacted Cicilline's office for comment.

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