I sent this letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, and also to Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pres. Joe Biden, Sunday afternoon. It states my opposition to HR 5, the Equality Act, which passed the House Feb. 24 and now faces a close vote in the Senate.
The links used to send the emails are printed below. Readers are welcome to use them as they see fit, including reprinting some or all of the content below. I could have said more. I hope others will.
Sen. Leahy’s response also is printed below.
Dear Sen. Leahy:
On February 25, Rep. Peter Welch joined 223 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass HR 5, named the Equality Act. It was opposed by 206 representatives.
I ask you to oppose this bill when it comes before you in the Senate. The closeness of this vote and the language in the bill suggests that despite its ‘who could argue with this?’ name, the passage of HR5 would:
- Undermine the inestimably precious institution of the one man, one woman family.
Section 2:A:2 refers to the “sex stereotype that marriage should only be between heterosexual couples.” Heterosexual marriage must not be denigrated as a “stereotype.” Both human history and modern academic studies show us that heterosexual marriage is not only the most enduring bond between adults, it is by far the most beneficial to children. By any meaningful standard – emotional security, educational and employment achievement, freedom from substance abuse, future family happiness – heterosexual marriage benefits children the most. While government should not discriminate against parents who do not fit this mold, government should unapologetically support the heterosexual family – not denigrate or dismantle it. We submit that both denigration and attempted dismantling happens when supporters of heterosexual marriage are called “hateful” and “discriminatory” by both media and government representatives – including many supporters of this bill.
- Create unconstitutional demands on Americans of religious conscience.
Section 1107 says “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) 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.” If we read this correctly, the RFRA – meant to establish in law the constitutional rights guaranteed by the First Amendment – would be null and void. The potentially abusive applications of this sweeping away of statute protecting religious expression are manifold. Furthermore, they will not – or at least should not – hold up under Supreme Court scrutiny. The Senate could save everyone the trouble of a successful court challenge by removing from HR5 any language that would impinge on Americans’ freedom of religion.
- Cause harm to women.
This bill would in effect allow biological men to use the same bathrooms as girls and women, and allow biological men to compete athletically against women. Both outcomes are distressing abuses of women’s hard-won privacy, dignity and right to compete.
I ask you to uphold longstanding American values of individual, Constitutional freedom and oppose HR5.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Pres. Joe Biden
Dear Mr. Page:
Thank you for contacting me about the Equality Act. I appreciate hearing from you.
The Equality Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 18, 2021. That bill was voted on and passed the House chamber on February 24, with bipartisan support. The Equality Act now awaits action by Leader Schumer in the Senate.
As the son of Vermont printers, I learned at an early age the importance of the First Amendment to America’s identity as a free society. The First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy, and I have long worked to uphold First Amendment protections, including those meant to protect religious freedom, and will continue to do so. I am proud to have received the 2016 First Amendment Award from the New England First Amendment Coalition for my unwavering commitment to protecting Americans’ right to speak and worship freely.
However, we must ensure that the shield of religious liberty is not used as a sword for discrimination. Discrimination on the grounds of a person’s race, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation is antithetical to everything America stands for.
The Equality Act would simply ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Please know I will keep your thoughts in mind as these issues arise in the future. Thank you for contacting me. Please keep in touch.
United States Senator