Mary Beth Waddell
Mary Beth Waddell fits right in with her employer, Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group. | Photo via Family Research Council.

Wednesday, Christian Broadcasting Network has a piece on their website titled: The LGBT Bill You Should Know About if Democrats Take Congress. They are referring to the Equality Act. The measure would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. As much as I would like to see this become law, its chances over the next two years are zero.

It is a virtual certainty that Trump would veto the bill and Democrats are not going to have veto-proof majorities in either chamber of Congress.

The purpose of CBN’s piece is simple. CBN is a 501(c)3 which is prohibited from political activity. This is a way to circumvent regulations. “Be afraid of LGBT people and vote Republican.”

What caught my eye was some commentary from Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group:

Mary Beth Waddell, a senior legislative assistant for the Family Research Council, says the Equality Act is basically government-sanctioned discrimination against religious people.

“The current law in civil rights and the protected classes are inborn and unchangeable characteristics like race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sex, etc., and religion, which is expressly protected under the constitution,” Waddell said. “What the Equality Act does is it turns it on its head and allow the government to impose a belief system about sexual decisions and sexual behaviors on the nation.”

Waddell also said the Family Research Council with [sic] “certainly” fight the bill if it comes up for a vote.

Waddell is a hopeless idiot but this rhetoric reflects the culture of the hate group that employs her. Waddell is remarkably claiming that people have a right to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. Writing for the majority in the Masterpiece Cakeshop cake, Justice Kennedy was careful to cite Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc. which says otherwise.

More remarkable is Waddell claiming that the Equality Act “turns it on its head.” The “it” is the Civil Rights Act. That assertion is made in spite of the fact that Waddell is claiming that prohibiting discrimination is discrimination. Go figure what turns on its head means.

Some history

In 1964, only about 7% of the Bible Belt’s congressional representatives voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act. Southern opponents claimed that the bill was “an attack on the Southern way of life.” They also claimed that people had an absolute right to determine who they associated with, worked with, ate with (seriously) or did business with. They absurdly claimed that the federal government was forcing “race mixing” on the South.

In his lengthy filibuster, Sen. Strom Thurmond claimed that the federal government was improperly interfering with the rights of sovereign states. He further asserted that this bill interfered with individual rights.

Deja vu

If that sounds familiar that is because these opponents of equality have simply re-tooled the losing arguments more than a half-century ago. What Waddell is actually trying to promote is Christian Nationalism and Christian Privilege, the notion that the nation is obliged to bend its laws to the will of conservative Christians. It is a familiar theme from Tony Perkins, the hate group’s leader.

Contrary to Waddell’s claim, religion is not “expressly protected under the constitution.” What is protected is free exercise of religion. It is settled law that the government can regulate conduct (Reynolds v. United States, 1879). I would also remind Waddell that the same First Amendment includes the Establishment Clause which means precisely what it says. The government is prohibited from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” It  prohibits favoring one religion over another.

What Waddell is amateurishly trying to make a case for is the inclusion of religion in the Civil Rights Act because religion is not an immutable characteristic like race. The reason that religion was included in the act was the abject anti-Semitism of these same people.

More intellectual misery

Waddell characterizes sexual orientation and gender identity as “a belief system about sexual decisions and sexual behaviors.” When people make spectacularly stupid statements like that I often wonder if they believe their own bullshit.

Conservative Christianity is a belief system. It is based on faith. Sexual orientation and gender identity are most certainly not beliefs. They are facts and they are immutable. One of FRC’s propagandists, Peter Sprigg, is constantly championing conversion therapy. Something that he cannot substantiate with respectable peer-reviewed science. As I have written many times, conversion therapy exists in an attempt to argue that sexuality is not immutable.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are immutable characteristics. People who happen to have a characteristic that religious conservatives disapprove of should be protected from discrimination just as race, religion, sex and age are protected. It will not come to pass over the next two years because people who could have and should have voted in 2016 prioritized doing other things. Let’s not repeat our mistakes. We can make the Equality Act a reality circa 2021.

Related content:

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.