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House Democrats just passed H.R. 5 – the badly-misnamed “Equality Act” – which elevates both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to protected categories in the federal Civil Rights Act. It’s not expected to pass the Senate this year, but it will inevitably be reintroduced in the next Congress, and LGBT activists will use it to push for policy changes at the state and local level.

The fact that the Equality Act already passed the House should alarm us as it threatens all Americans, particularly observant Jews. Here’s why:


At its root, the bill declares the Torah to be a bigoted document and all those who follow it to be bigots. Why? Because the Torah says men and women are different, that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that certain relationships are pure while others are not. Attempting to remain true to these beliefs could be construed as discrimination under the Equality Act.

Should it ever become law, it will impact businesses, non-profits, houses of worship, and individuals. For example, it could put Jewish wedding halls, bands, caterers and photographers out of business if they refuse to cater to two men who wish to “marry.” Even a synagogue that rents out a hall for weddings and other celebrations could be at risk.

Furthermore, businesses seeking individuals of a particular gender would be obligated to hire based upon expressed gender preference, rather than biology. Ultimately, it could become impossible for businesses to cater uniquely to observant men or women.

Liberal sexual orientation and gender identity policies may also be the undoing of many religious charities. The Downtown Hope Center in Anchorage, Alaska was recently sued after it declined to allow a biological male who identified as a woman to stay overnight in its shelter for battered women. That biological women – especially women seeking refuge from abuse – often feel unsafe sleeping near unfamiliar men was of no interest to government investigators.

Meanwhile, faith-based foster care and adoption agencies in several states have been forced to close down because they insist on placing children in homes with both a mother and a father. Under these rules, a Jewish agency could be told that it can no longer insist upon placing Jewish children in traditional Jewish homes. These rules have already exacerbated the national foster care crisis, forcing children to live in group homes instead of with stable families.

There’s more. The Equality Act would require Orthodox doctors and nurses to perform and prescribe “transition-affirming” therapies, even if they deem them to be detrimental to their patients. Hospitals, even those with religious missions, would be forced to provide these procedures, and insurers would be required to pay for them.

And if the medical community is expected to provide hormonal and surgical interventions for adults, it will soon be expected to do the same for children. Activists suggest social transition for children as young as 4, puberty-blocking drugs for children as young as 9, cross-sex hormones for children as young as 14, and surgery a few years later. These drastic therapies come with harmful and potentially fatal side effects: increased risk for cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and, of course, sterility.

The Equality Act could also affect our schools. Judges have ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires schools to implement black history curricula. An activist judge could likewise rule that the Equality Act requires schools receiving any form of government aid to implement LGBT curricula – without parental input or opt-outs.

The Equality Act also hurts women. By granting biological men access to women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, and sporting activities, women’s privacy, safety, and equality are all compromised. Observant Jews who keep many forms of public assembly strictly separated by gender will have additional problems.

Finally, the Equality Act directly undermines our Constitutional right to freely practice our religion and, of course, sends the message that a traditional understanding of marriage and gender is “bigoted” – even illegal if acted upon.

The Equality Act is a terrible bill. Adding religious exemptions would not solve the problems inherent in it or neutralize the negative message it sends regarding traditional beliefs.

Although it is unlikely to become law this Congress, the Equality Act is not going away. It’s time for the Jewish community to vocalize its concerns and stand up for true equality – before it’s too late.


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Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values. Monica Burke is a Research Assistant in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.