ILMA Compoundings - April 2021 - 36

WASHINGTON LANDSCAPE

The Equality Act
By Matthew Levetown

A

s Compoundings goes to press,
the Equality Act has passed the
House and has been sent to the
Senate. The House-passed measure is
relatively simple, with the majority of
the 32-page bill changing language in
all titles of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- that is, replacing " sex " with " sex
(including " sexual orientation " and
" gender identity " ). " The act, if enacted,
would expand anti-discrimination for
sexual orientation and gender identity
beyond employment, which has been
the law since June 2020, to include
application of anti-discrimination
policies to every walk of life, which
would include facility bathrooms,
locker rooms and dressing rooms. The
National Association of Manufacturers
and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
support passage.
As background, since 1973, 22 states
have passed laws adding some measure
of anti-discrimination against LGBT
people. In 2012 and 2015, respectively,
the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) issued two opinions ruling that discrimination based
on gender identity and sexual orientation are prohibited in employment.
While both EEOC decisions and state
laws do have force, neither the state
laws nor EEOC decisions have the heft
of a broad federal statutory mandate or
Supreme Court decision.
In June 2020, the Supreme Court
issued a 6-3 decision in the landmark
case of Bostock v. Clayton County,
interpretating the Civil Rights Act's
definition of " sex " to include sexual orientation and gender identity, but only
in the narrow context of employment.
Put simply, even if the Equality Act

36

APRIL 2021

| COMPOUNDINGS | ILMA.ORG

did not receive the 60 votes necessary
to pass in the Senate, discrimination
in areas of employment such as hiring,
firing, pay and benefits based on sexual
orientation or gender identity currently
is the law of the land.
The majority opinion, delivered by
Justice Neil Gorsuch, held that the
text of the Civil Rights Act supports
such an interpretation. In other words,
firing an individual merely for their
sexual orientation or gender identity
is a firing based on a characteristic
of the individual that would not be
questioned in someone of a different
sex. As an example, a female employee
bringing her husband to a work event
would not receive a second thought,
and therefore, terminating a male
employee for bringing his husband
is discrimination based on sex.
Seemingly, the only way to avoid a
discrimination claim would be to fire
all employees who reveal themselves
to be married where that was the only
reason for termination.
DEFINITIONS
To clarify and avoid interpretative
issues, the Equality Act provides definitions of " sex, " " sexual orientation " and
" gender identity. " " Gender identity, "
under the act, means the gender-related
identity, appearance, mannerisms or
other gender-related characteristics of
an individual, regardless of the individual's designated sex at birth. " Sexual
orientation, " unsurprisingly, means
hetero-, homo- or bisexuality. Finally,
" sex " is updated to include:
*	sex stereotyping
*	sex characteristics, including
intersex traits

*	pregnancy, childbirth or a related
medical condition
*	sexual orientation or gender
identity
APPLICATIONS
Given that the Civil Rights Act covers
sexual orientation and gender identity
in employment because of Bostock,
what then is the purpose of the
Equality Act? Simple - extend the
court's reasoning to every other aspect
of life, from housing and medical care
to access to insurance and financial
services. However, the only new
provision that would apply to organizations that did not already apply are
the application of anti-discrimination
practices to sex-segregated bathrooms
and locker rooms in an office setting.
The Equality Act expands the
definition of public accommodations
to include, among other things, legal
services, shelters and online retailers,
effectively covering just about every
business that participates in commerce. The ability of the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act to supersede claims of discrimination based
on sincerely held religious beliefs is
explicitly denied under the Equality
Act, besides a narrow exception for
religious ministries. This has led
to critics arguing that the Equality
Act mandates government-imposed
ideology about sexual ethics without
respecting healthy public debate.
Other critics contend that the
act would destroy women's sports.
Expanding anti-discrimination to
gender identity would require federally
funded schools to accept trans women
onto women's sports teams under Title


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ILMA Compoundings - April 2021

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ILMA Compoundings - April 2021 - 1
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