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Catholic bishops oppose 'Equality Act' ahead of vote, Catholic politicians Biden, Pelosi support it

The Democratic-led House is expected to take a vote Thursday on the Equality Act

Updated: February 25, 2021 - 1:33pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Ahead of the Democratic-led House's scheduled "Equality Act" vote Thursday, the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops publicly criticized the bill while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden, both Catholic politicians, support the legislation.

Five USCCB chairmen wrote a letter to lawmakers in opposition to the bill.

"The Equality Act purports to protect people experiencing same-sex attraction or gender discordance from discrimination. But instead, the bill represents the imposition by Congress of novel and divisive viewpoints regarding 'gender' on individuals and organizations. This includes dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting 'gender' as only a social construct," wrote the chairmen of the USCCB about the bill. 

The sweeping measure, if passed by Congress and signed into law, would amend federal civil right law in prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. 

"Tragically, this Act can also be construed to include an abortion mandate, a violation of precious rights to life and conscience. Rather than affirm human dignity in ways that meaningfully exceed existing practical protections, the Equality Act would discriminate against people of faith," the conference letter also reads.

The chairmen wrote that the Catholic Church, as the largest non-governmental provider of human services in the United States, each year "helps millions of people in need through its parishes, schools, hospitals, shelters, legal clinics, food banks, and other charities."

"The same core beliefs about the human person – made with inherent dignity and in the image of God – motivate both our positions on life, marriage, and sexuality, and also our call to serve the most vulnerable and the common good. We oppose this legislation," they wrote.

The Equality Act would prohibit the use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which passed in a bipartisan vote at the time and was signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton.

The nearly 30-years-old legislation prohibited "any agency, department, or official of the United States or any State (the government) from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability."

Under the Equality Act, the 1993 bill "shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.’’

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said recently that Biden would uphold his pledge to sign the bill if it comes to his desk.

“He stands by it,” she said.

Pelosi said Thursday that the bill is needed to "end discrimination" against the LGBTQ community.

"This time it will not only be passed in the House but on a path to a signing at the White House," the California Democrat said at a news conference. "We're very excited about that."



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