written by Natasha Chart and Rabbi Yaakov Menken, published at Newsweek.
It would be hard to accuse an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and an agnostic feminist leader of walking in lockstep. And if one is managing director of an organization that “advocates for public policy positions based upon traditional Jewish thought” while the other “fights at the front line of feminism,” they should probably find themselves consistently at loggerheads.
Not here. We agree entirely that the Equality Act is a fatally flawed, and even hateful, piece of legislation.
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Everyone knew what women were when women and girls weren’t allowed to have organized school sports or professional sporting leagues—when there was no fame or money to be had. Mediocre male athletes and even the most talented women had to content themselves with redirecting their efforts elsewhere.
In 1972, Congress passed Title IX, the Equal Opportunity in Education Act, requiring equality of access to educational programs and activities by gender. Legislators agreed that enabling female athletes to excel was a positive goal—and that expecting women to compete athletically against biological men was fundamentally unfair.
Generations of girls and women have since benefited from sports programs in grade school and college. Many attended the school of their choice thanks to athletic scholarships.
The Equality Act, like President Joe Biden’s similar recent executive order, vacates all of this, placing “gender identity” ahead of biological sex.
Gender self-identification opens an avenue for cynical, less-talented male athletes to compete with women instead of their biological male peers. But biological men, regardless of how they self-identify, self-medicate biologically. Radically higher concentrations of testosterone from boyhood onward ensure that the top echelon of male athletes will always beat any woman in a test of speed, strength or endurance.
Don’t just believe us. A rapper and fitness coach briefly deemed himself a woman long enough to “DESTROY” the British women’s deadlift record. A prankster at Trinity College in Ireland, suitably inspired, then entered a women’s track meet. The athlete placed second, admitting afterwards that preparation for the race involved drinking protein shakes and beer.
These stunts pale in comparison, however, to the harm done by Laurel Hubbard. A young Gavin Hubbard set junior records in a new division in New Zealand weightlifting, only to see those efforts surpassed. After being appointed executive officer of Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand, Hubbard “transitioned” into gold medalist Laurel Hubbard, who denied an indigenous Samoan woman—who weightlifted her way to recovery from childhood abuse—the gold medal at the 2019 Pacific Games.
This is what the Equality Act would enforce across America—by law. Women, check your “privilege.”
Neither is this phenomenon limited to sports. The Equality Act similarly demands that biological men be given access to women’s bathrooms, changing facilities and shelters. Religiously motivated Orthodox Jewish practices, such as separate seating at public events and separate hours for exercise facilities (especially swimming pools) would be illegal. Incredibly, the Equality Act specifically strips away protection of religious practice guaranteed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
This last point reveals the unthinking extremism of the Equality Act. Civil rights legislation is intentionally a blunt legal instrument, historically designed to redress ongoing racism against descendants of former slaves. The Equality Act thus deems a religiously motivated refusal to participate in a same-sex marriage to be no different than a KKK member’s refusal to cater a multiethnic couple’s nuptials. Traditional religious practices, according to the Equality Act, are as unacceptable as was Jim Crow.
It is actually quite explicit. According to the Equality Act, acting from “the sex stereotype that marriage should only be between heterosexual couples” is grounds for a civil rights complaint. In other words, following the Book of Genesis, which describes matrimony as the time when a man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife, is against the law.
We need not agree on religious philosophy or the propriety of same-sex marriage to consider it dangerous to outlaw constitutionally protected religious practices.
In his dissent in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges case, Chief Justice John Roberts warned that the majority’s blithe assurances that “it does not intend to disparage people who, as a matter of conscience, cannot accept same-sex marriage” were nothing more than that. The majority, after all, characterized those who “did nothing more than follow the understanding of marriage that has existed for our entire history” as reprobates who “acted to ‘lock…out,’ ‘disparage,’ ‘disrepect and subordinate’….their gay and lesbian neighbors.”
“These apparent assaults on the character of fair-minded people will have an effect, in society and in court,” he warned. And here we are. Congress is prepared to declare anyone who follows the Bible’s definition of marriage, or who believes women’s sports, prisons and shelters should be reserved for biological women, to be in violation of civil rights law. The Equality Act would go so far as to define it as discriminatory to merely state that human beings can’t change their sex.
The Equality Act has been advertised as a fight against bigotry. In truth, it’s a fight against freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution—and observations so common as to be shared by both radical feminism and traditional religion.
Natasha Chart is chair of the Women’s Liberation Front. Rabbi Yaakov Menken is managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.