WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act
in a 224-206 vote Feb. 25.
Prior to the vote, the chairmen of five U.S. bishops’ committees
said in a Feb. 23 letter to Congress that the legislation’s mandates will
“discriminate against people of faith” by adversely affecting
charities and their beneficiaries, conscience rights, women’s sports, “and
The bill, known as H.R. 5, amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to
prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding,
the credit system and jury duty.
Speaking ahead of the vote on his Feb. 24 “Walk Humbly Podcast,”
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge echoed many of the concerns raised by the aforementioned
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) letter and accompanying legislative
Alert” in opposition to the measure.
“We believe everyone deserves to be treated with respect and
dignity,” Bishop Burbidge said. “We recognize every single person as a child of
Yet the House-passed legislation “does the opposite in many
ways,” he noted. “Clearly, it needs to be opposed.”
Citing the USCCB analysis, Bishop Burbidge described a range of
problematic provisions in the bill, saying it would discriminate against and
punish faith-based organizations such as charities and schools that serve
everyone in their communities; risk mandating taxpayers to fund abortions;
force people in everyday life and especially health care workers to support
gender transition and require parish halls to host functions that conflict with
H.R. 5 “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,” the USCCB chairmen said in their letter.
“This includes dismissing sexual difference and falsely
presenting ‘gender’ as only a social construct,” they said. “As Pope
Francis has reflected, however, ‘biological sex and the sociocultural role of
sex — gender — can be distinguished but not separated.'”
Signing the letter were: Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland,
Calif., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education; Archbishop Paul
S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic
Justice and Human Development; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman
of the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop David A. Konderla of
Tulsa, Okla., chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense
of Marriage; and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., chairman of
the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
“It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and
the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to
sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality,” the bishops said, further
quoting Pope Francis.
“Tragically, this act can also be construed to include an
abortion mandate, a violation of precious rights to life and conscience,”
the committee chairmen added.
“Rather than affirm human dignity in ways that meaningfully
exceed existing practical protections, the Equality Act would discriminate
against people of faith,” they said. “It would also inflict numerous
legal and social harms on Americans of any faith or none.”
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