Mar 17, 2021
Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Transcript March 17: Equality Act for LGBTQ Rights
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Equality Act for LGBTQ rights on March 17, 2021. Read the transcript of the full congressional hearing here.
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Chairman Durbin: (00:00)
… in more than a decade. This critical legislation would codify federal civil rights protections for LGBTQ Americans. I’d like to now turn to a video that recognizes how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
Speaker 1: (00:15)
Somewheres in Des Moines or San Antonio, there’s a young gay person, who all of a sudden realizes that she or he is gay. Knows that if the parents find out, they’ll be tossed out of the house, the classmates would taunt the child. And then one day that child might open a paper that says.
Speaker 2: (00:38)
This morning, the LGBTQ community is one step closer to being protected. Under federal civil rights. The House has approved a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Speaker 1: (00:50)
So that, that young child and the thousands upon thousands like that child know that there’s hope for a better world. There’s hope for a better tomorrow. I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, you’ve got to give them hope.
Speaker 3: (01:15)
Every American deserves respect and dignity. And it’s important that the Equality Act come law because it will once. And for all, ensure that LGBTQ Americans can live lives free of discrimination. The Equality Act was made to protect me and other LGBTQ Americans from people who are always trying to reduce our lives to bedrooms, bathrooms, or locker rooms, rather than deal with the complex lives of real people who must endure their hatred. Marriage is legal for same-sex couples in all 50 states, but that couple could lose their respective jobs in 21 states be denied housing in 27 states be denied public accommodations in 25 states. And if they or their children are in school or college, their sexual orientation or gender identity could open them to discrimination in their educational pursuits in 31 states. Some members have used the bill to make a mockery of the lives of LGBTQ plus Americans.
Speaker 5: (02:14)
Many of whom live without basic human rights protections even in 2021. Bigotry isn’t just a side show, it fuels the hatred that endangers the lives of many trans people whose life expectancy, their life expectancy hovers around 35 years of age.
Speaker 4: (02:31)
The fact that we still have a society in which we have certain people, an entire class of people who are excluded from basic human rights and basic protections underscores that the work of this country remains fundamentally undone.
Speaker 5: (02:47)
If you can protect them, then you can protect everyone. But if you cannot protect them, then we do not have equality.
Chairman Durbin: (02:52)
We’ve all seen pictures, photos, heard stories of things that have happened in the past in America. I’m sure many members of the committee had the same reaction I did when you first looked at a sign that said, “Whites only.” When you first heard the stories of lynchings that took place, not just in the South, but across the United States. When you hear the rank discrimination in the history of this country. At first you’re incredulous and then angry that this could have happened in America. And it has happened. Discrimination against groups throughout our history. As wise and thoughtful as our founding fathers might’ve been in writing the constitution, they counted African-Americans in that constitution as three fifths of the human being. Women were not given the right to vote. The disabled were not even recognized by most places in our society, and sexual orientation was way beyond the reach of our founding fathers consideration.
Chairman Durbin: (04:06)
Since the dawn of our Republic, LBGTQ Americans have made important contributions to America, even while they’ve been subjected to bigotry, violence and the threat of criminal prosecution and imprisonment simply for being who they are. Consider some of these moments in American history. Sodomy was a felony in every colony, and then every state and the nation. In 1862, Albert Cashier, he was born Jenny Hoggers, enlisted in the Union Amy as a man and fought for three years until the end of Civil War. Cashier continued living as a man after the war in 1924, German immigrant named Henry Gerber founded the society for human rights in Chicago. The first gay rights organization in the United States. In 1953, 1953, president Dwight Eisenhower issued executive order 10450 which banned gay and lesbian Americans from working for the federal government. In 1961, my home state of Illinois became the first to decriminalize same-sex relations between two consenting adults in private.
Chairman Durbin: (05:20)
In 1970, the first Gay Pride parade was held in Chicago to commemorate the Stonewall riots. In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, defining marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman on an overwhelming bipartisan vote. Only 14 senators voted against the bill, including my mentor, Senator Paul Simon, and our colleague Senator Dianne Feinstein, a long time champion of LGBTQ rights. Senator Feinstein, you were a leader. You still are a leader on the subject. In 2003, just 18 years ago, the Supreme Court finally ended sodomy laws in the United States. In 2009, president Obama signed into law and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded the definition of hate crimes to include gender identity and sexual orientation. In 2010, Congress overturned the discriminatory, don’t ask don’t tell policy that prevented gay, lesbian and bisexual service members from serving openly. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, and we all remember that joyous historic day in 2015, only six years ago when the Supreme Court finally held that marriage equality was the law of the land in America.
Chairman Durbin: (06:44)
The Obama administration allowed transgender service members to serve openly, but in 2017, President Trump abruptly announced a ban on transgender military service. President Biden has repealed this ban and just last year, the Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Gorsuch held that the prohibition on sex discrimination and Title VII of the civil rights act bars firing individual because of that individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, despite the setbacks along the way, we have made great strides in the fight for equality for LGBTQ Americans, but they still face a patchwork of legal protection across America. Some states like Illinois, comprehensively protect individuals from discrimination, others lag for behind. A recent 2020 study found that one out of three LGBTQ Americans, including three out of five transgender Americans experienced discrimination over the past year. And that’s why it’s critical to fill the gaps in federal civil rights law and strengthen protections for this class of American citizens.
Chairman Durbin: (07:53)
The Equality Act would ensure that LGBTQ Americans are protected from discrimination in public accommodations, education, federally funded program, employment, housing credit, and jury service. This legislation has been endorsed by 600, 600 civil rights, healthcare and faith-based organizations. Nearly 400 major corporations support the bill along with 60 business associations, including the national association of manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce. And a nonpartisan poll found that more than 70% of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents support non-discrimination protection for LGBTQ Americans.
Chairman Durbin: (08:45)
Unfortunately some opponents have chosen to make exaggerated claims about what the Equality Act would do. Let me be clear: those of us working to pass this legislation are open to good faith, constructive suggestions on further improvement and strengthening the bill. In fact, that’s why we’re having this hearing. But many of the attacks on this bill are nothing more than the latest in a long, long, long line of fear-mongering targeting the LGBTQ community. For years, opponents of marriage equality introduced both state and federal constitutional amendments to ban it.
Chairman Durbin: (09:23)
To literally expand discrimination in the federal state constitution. They claim such bans were necessary to protect the institution of marriage. When their attacks on marriage equality failed, opponents turned to attacking equality for the transgender community, claiming that equality for trans Americans placed girls and women at risk. We’ve so far seen more than 80 bills introduced during 2021 state legislative sessions attacking the transgender community.
Chairman Durbin: (09:53)
These bills are addressing problems that simply do not exist. And yet, these bills have real consequences. They marginalize and harm trans youth kids who are just trying to live their lives authentically. That’s why these majors are opposed by the 50 major corporations in the nation’s leading child health and welfare organizations. Let me conclude.
Chairman Durbin: (10:17)
Instead of discriminating against and marginalizing LGBTQ Americans and LGBTQ kids, we should be working toward a more inclusive America. That’s exactly what the Equality Act would help accomplish. Last month, the US House of Representatives passed the Equality Act on a strong bipartisan vote. President Biden called it and I quote, “A critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all.” Now it’s in our hands. To paraphrase Harvey Milk’s call for our nation to give young LGBTQ people hope we need to keep fighting for a better tomorrow. We need to keep hoping for a better place to come and we need to pass the Equality Act to ensure that all will be right. I now turn to the ranking member. Chuck Grassley.
Chuck Grassley: (11:11)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We’re here today for a hearing on the Equality Act. The Equality Act is meant to stop discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. Laws to end hateful discrimination can be tailored to prevent injustices in various contexts like banking and housing and thereby end those injustices. This bill is drafted in an entirely different way. It would fundamentally manipulate how our society deals with subjects of sex, gender, and faith. Now, we all agree that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of race, sex, gender identity, religion, politics, and probably a lot of other categories that you can name. We’re all human beings and need to treat each other with kindness and compassion. And for some of you, it may be sentimental for me to say that my guide is from the Bible, love God that first law, the second law love your neighbor as yourself.
Chuck Grassley: (12:34)
I question whether that is what this bill truly does. I strongly suspect that it actually would dictate what women, girls, schools, churches, doctors, and others must believe. I want to hear from experts and ordinary Americans with life experiences. We need to consider the perspective of everyone who will be affected by this bill’s sweeping language. We need need to hear from physicians whose professional judgment may be overridden by the federal government if this bill is adopted. We need to hear from the occupants of homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, correctional facilities, with jurisdictions where anyone currently can request a transfer based upon gender identity, how would the Equality Act deal with these sex specific facilities that involve no hateful discrimination? Still other perspectives will help the Senate better understand what would happen if certain basic services on which many Americans rely, if this act is adopted. Example, what will happen to Catholic or Methodist affiliated hospitals, which provide excellent service to the public, if this bill is enacted?
Chuck Grassley: (14:11)
In some areas, these facilities may be the only hospitals for miles around. If a faith-based organization has partnered with a community to provide very needed social services that would otherwise not exist, like a soup kitchen or an adoption agency for the hard to adopt special need kids. What happens to the people who relied most heavily on those services? To whom do they turn? We need to have a genuine bi-partisan discussion about all these issues at today’s hearing. And I just heard the chairman say that he’s open to those discussings. Dismissing the challenges for women and girls and the need to protect religious freedom of conscience is no way to conduct a legislative hearing. I want to share the story of one of the many people that we should be keeping in mind as we consider this legislation, the mother of a young student athlete, Chelsea Mitchell.
Chuck Grassley: (15:26)
Chelsea is a star high school athletic athlete in Connecticut. She told us she’d like to retain the right to compete on equal footing with the other biological girls. Instead, this accomplished athlete has been forced to compete against biological men. Many women and girls before her fought for legal protections under Title IX, we’re tracking knives that sex specific distinctions are appropriate in some instances. As a father, grandfather, and husband, I have celebrated the athletic successes of talented young women in my own family. So I am deeply concerned about this act’s potential negative implications for all girls and women in sports.
Chuck Grassley: (16:25)
I have a letter from Chelsea’s mom and I’d request its inclusion in the record, along with a number of other personal accounts. I hope that at today’s hearing voices like Chelsea’s will not be drowned out. We hear from two witnesses today for the minority, Ms. Shriver is a Yale educated attorney and an independent journalist who is here to tell us all the ways that the Equality Act, far from treating Americans equally would treat women and girls on equally. Of course, the Title IX or sports issue speaks to just one problem that this bill potentially prevents for women and girls. This is an important issue, but it is not the only issue Ms. Shriver will explain the extremes and far reaching implications of the bill, which extend well beyond what this hearings title suggest. I also look forward to hearing from Ms. Hanson, an attorney as well, about the bills unprecedented impact on religious freedom protections. I hope that she can help us understand how the Equality Act would override protections that we enacted under the landmark religious freedom restoration act.
Chuck Grassley: (17:56)
It was championed in the other chamber by then Congressman Schumer, adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed by President Clinton. All of these issues merit careful analysis and extensive deliberation by our chamber. So I hope the concerns of women and girls and of Americans of faith will be treated with inclusion and respect. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Durbin: (18:29)
Thank you, Senator Grassley. I can’t believe that I started this hearing without wishing everyone a happy St Patrick’s Day, but Senator Kennedy, looks good. And all of you, thank you for being here today. Secondly, my apologies for the hearing in this room. We didn’t get our bid in, in time for the larger room. And so, it really is awkward and uncomfortable. We’re counting on the Rules Committee to protect us all the way and just hope that happens.
Chairman Durbin: (18:57)
The third thing I want to say is this: I’ve said it before, and I want to repeat it. I always felt that Senator Graham’s chairman chairman did everything they could to keep these hearings at a very high level and respectful of everyone, witnesses and members alike. I want to strive to reach that same goal Senator and I’m sure our colleagues will join us in that effort. Today, we welcome members of Congress to testify on the Equality Act. We have an extraordinarily large number who wanted to testify. I will briefly introduce the majority witnesses, then I’ll turn to Senator Grassley to introduce the minority witnesses. As they follow the members panels. Each member will have a maximum three minutes to deliver their remarks. Because there are so many who wish to testify, I decided to go in order of seniority. And the first person I’d like to introduce for a three-minute statement is the primary sponsor of the Senate version of the Equality Act, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
Senator Merkley: (20:03)
Thank you very much, Chairman Durbin. I am very honored to be with you today and thank you for convening this historic hearing on the Equality Act. I’m proud to sponsor this historic piece of legislation and to have worked in partnership with colleagues on the house side and so many leaders in the civil rights community to draft this legislation back in 2015.
Senator Merkley: (20:26)
Now, here we are six years later, having this moment to finally start the important discussion in the committee to determine the path forward, to end this historic discrimination against the LGBTQ members of the United States of America. I’m determined that we go forward to outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, as we have outlined discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and religion. What our founders meant in Philadelphia to break away from Great Britain to create a new nation. They had some powerful, some revolutionary ideals. And perhaps the most revolutionary ideal of all as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence was that all of us are created equal and deserving of the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America from an imperfect beginning, has strive towards that vision generation after generation to reach towards those goals of freedom of equality, of opportunity for all.
Senator Merkley: (21:42)
And when you look at where we started from and where we are now, it’s clear we’ve made significant progress towards achieving that vision, but we are not there yet. President Lyndon Johnson once said that, “Freedom is the right to share fully and equally in American society. That it is the right to be treated in every part of our national life as a person equal in dignity and promise to all others.” But too many of our fellow Americans are not treated as people equal in dignity and promise. Too many cannot share fully and equally in society because each and every day, they are submitted to discrimination, doors slammed in their face in aspect after aspect of our national life, all because of who they are or whom they love. In 29 states to date, LGBTQ Americans can be married in the morning, ejected from a restaurant at lunch, denied a mortgage, dismissed from jury duty in the afternoon, evicted from their home that same night.
Senator Merkley: (22:50)
How can we say that any of these Americans are treated equal in dignity and promise to all others? How can we say that LGBTQ Americans are truly free when one and three report having faced some form of discrimination in just the last year? How can we say, as Jefferson wrote that all of us are created equal and deserving of the same rights, when the law does not give the same rights and opportunities to LGBTQ Americans?
Senator Merkley: (23:22)
No one should have to live like that. No one should have to live their life with the ugly curse of discrimination, slamming shut the doors of opportunity, preventing one’s participation in so many aspects of our national life. That discrimination is the very opposite of freedom. It is the very opposite of dignity. It is the very opposite of equality. It is way past time for members of this body to step up and fulfill the vision of our declaration of independence. The vision in our constitution, the vision of equal justice under law carved into the stone, above the doors of the Supreme Court and en that dark history of discrimination and prejudice against our fellow LGBTQ Americans. So thank you again, the chairman and ranking member for holding this long overdue hearing. Let the bells of freedom ring across America.
Chairman Durbin: (24:19)
Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is the co-lead of the Equality Act and the first openly LGBTQ Senator. Senator Baldwin.
Senator Baldwin: (24:28)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, thank you ranking member, Grassley and members of the committee. Thank you for holding this historic hearing on the Equality Act and for inviting me to be a part of it. Since the people of Wisconsin first sent me to the House of Representatives in 1999, we have seen enormous advances, her lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. On a bipartisan basis, we have expanded our nation’s hate crimes laws to fight bias-motivated violence against this community. We repealed the don’t ask don’t tell law that barred open service by brave lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. Through the actions of state legislatures and state and federal courts, marriage equality has become a reality in every corner of this country, but our work is not yet done. And because of that, the House has twice passed on a bipartisan basis, the Equality Act. Discrimination remains a daily reality for members of the LGBTQ community. Discrimination is a painful reality. A majority of states still lack comprehensive non-discrimination protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations, education, and elsewhere.
Senator Baldwin: (26:05)
When our community fought for hate crimes and open service and marriage, we sought simply to be included to be afforded the same opportunities as every other American. These efforts were not about taking something away from others, but rather ensuring LGBTQ people could fully participate in the life of our nation. That too is what the Equality Act is about. Making our nation’s decades old, federal civil rights framework inclusive of LGBTQ people and expanding the opportunities they afford to more people, not diminishing them for others.
Senator Baldwin: (26:51)
Just as enacting these historic laws made us a better nation, closer to the promise of equality for which so many have struggled, so too will extending them. Doing so will allow LGBTQ people who are your family members, friends, neighbors, staff, and colleagues, the chance to contribute to their workplaces schools, communities as their full selves, without fear of discrimination. Our nation is at its best when it seeks to expand opportunity and embrace the beautiful diversity of the American people. Each time we have done so, there have been those who insist that it will result in calamity, but that has never come to pass. We are a better, stronger nation for having advanced the cause of equality. Let us work together to continue moving our country forward in that noble pursuit. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (27:52)
Thanks Senator Baldwin. On the basis of seniority calling the role. I love you all, but I had to figure some reasonable objective standard. James Lankford Senator from Oklahoma is recognized next.
Senator Lankford: (28:06)
Mr. Chairman, thank you. Let me be very clear, no person should be discriminated against in America. No one. That’s who we are. It’s a basic constitutional principle. We are all equal under the law. All of us. We don’t oppose equality, but we do oppose legislation when you take the rights of one and dismiss the rights of others. We should all be able to respect each other, disagree and still honor each other in our disagreements, that’s who we are as Americans. Mr. Chairman, I really do thank you for holding this hearing and taking a serious look at the text here, because there are some serious issues with the text that we believe should be addressed as you go through this market process, to be able to take a look at it. In 1993, Congress took action to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Employment Division versus Smith. House Judiciary Committee report stated that the Smith decision had created a climate in which the free exercise of religion is continuously in jeopardy.
Senator Lankford: (29:04)
After Smith, claimants will be forced to convince courts that an inappropriate legislative motive created statutes and regulation. The committee believes that the compelling governmental interest test must be restored. The legislative response to that Smith decision was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which many members in this committee voted for. The bill restored the compelling governmental interest test previously applicable to the first amendment free exercise cases by requiring a proof of compelling justification in order to burden religious exercise.
Senator Lankford: (29:36)
The bill was ultimately passed the House by voice vote and pass the Senate 97 to three. This bill, the Equality Act for the first time since 1993 would exclude the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Congress would be taking affirmative action to not include RFRA protections. Religious Freedom Restoration Act doesn’t pick winners and losers, it provides a balancing test. The government may burden someone else’s religious exercise only if the burden is in furtherance of a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest. Just in the last seven years, 58% of the RFRA cases haven’t even been dealing with Christian religion, what is the majority religion in the United States.
Senator Lankford: (30:24)
58% of the cases have been minority religions that have been protected in the United States. So why is this an issue for this? Over the course of the last year, we’ve seen houses of worship across the country, including states represented by every single person in the Judiciary Committee that have served as locations for COVID testing in vaccine distribution. They provided food, clothing, rental assistance to those in need, as they always do. Under the Equality Act, all of those houses of worship would now be categorized as public accommodations as an establishment. Deeming houses of worship as a public accommodations, subjects them to needless litigation and the Equality Act would literally strip them in the very defense that they were given in 1993. The bill also defined sex to include pregnancy childbirth and related medical conditions. To be clear: our federal law already protects people from pregnancy discrimination as it should, but in areas where Congress has protected pregnant moms from discriminations also clarified, those laws don’t require employers to pay for abortion, except in very limited circumstances.
Senator Lankford: (31:32)
Without clarifying language, medical conditions related to pregnancy will include abortion and the Equality Act will mandate the churches pay for healthcare coverage for abortion, without these RFRA protections. Ironically, the ACLU in 1992 saw this exact issue and saw it as a reason to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. For those of us that believe a baby is not just a medical condition, for the people that believe children of any age or size or degree of development are worthy of life, we’re not bigots. We’re people who live by our genuine faith and see a child as a child. I believe that we can respect each other. We can have real dialogue over these issues that are complicated and difficult, and we can find a way to be able to pass something that honors every American, but doesn’t discriminate against people of faith. Thank you Mr. Chair.
Chairman Durbin: (32:24)
Thank you, Senator Lankford. And our next witness from Mississippi is United States Senator Hyde Smith.
Senator Hyde-Smith: (32:37)
Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Durbin: (32:39)
Senator Hyde-Smith: (32:40)
Ranking Member Grassley, and all of my colleagues. I am truly honored to be here today with you to discuss this misnamed Equality Act. It is misnamed because although this acts purports the prevention of discrimination, it actually causes it, by undermining hard hardball protections for women. By changing the meaning of the word sex under the federal law to encompass gender identity and by applying that expanded definition across context and without exception, this law eliminates private spaces for biological women, including single-sex schools, dormitories, sororities, and sports teams. As the first woman elected to represent Mississippi at the federal level, I’m reminded on a daily basis that my presence here wouldn’t be possible without generations of brave women who came before me. They fought tirelessly for equality for American women and I have benefited from that work. One area where women have long been under represented is on the playing field. Before the passage of Title IX in 1972, girls and women didn’t have the same opportunity that boys and men did when it came to athletics, and specifically with college-
Senator Hyde-Smith: (34:03)
… when it came to athletics and specifically with college athletic scholarships, Title IX changed that. Statistics show that since the passage of this important law, female participation in sports has increased more than 900%. Unfortunately, the Equality Act would undermine that progress. Opening positions on women’s teams to biological men, not just transgender athletes who have blocked the onset of male puberty, but are also living as women but any male who simply says he identifies as female, whether they’re transgender or not. This is the problem created by the act when it substitutes the vague and open ended term gender identity for the word sex. Gender identity can mean almost anything and therefore, it becomes the exception that swallows the rule.
Senator Hyde-Smith: (34:58)
I am particularly concerned about how this law will affect women’s sports, allowing male bodied athletes to compete against females in sports like basketball would totally undermine girls sports. Last year, Duke Law School professor Dorian Coleman had the opportunity to testify before the House Judiciary Committee to express her concerns with how the Equality Act would affect women’s athletics. She looked specifically the athletic data of three female athletes who won gold medals for team USA. Comparing those achievements to the athletic performance of thousands of boys and men who were considered second tier athletes. The results were astonishing. This is important. The data makes it clear that even suburb Olympic metal winning female athletes would lose to male bodied athletes who were considered second tier in the men’s category.
Senator Hyde-Smith: (36:07)
I have submitted professor Coleman’s findings for the record today in addition to my written testimony, I urge every member of this committee to review these findings before considering voting on legislation that fails to recognize these facts. This is because the onset of puberty and the associated higher testosterone levels leading male bodied athletes with significant advantages over female athletes. I know the importance of sports for females from my own firsthand experience, playing both youth and high school basketball. In fact, my mother played basketball, I played basketball and my daughter has played basketball. Point guards are pretty tough. My experiences playing basketball as part of a team of girls helped develop my character and my competence to lead me where I am today, the first female member of Congress from Mississippi.
Senator Hyde-Smith: (37:09)
I have seen firsthand what female athletes have done for my daughter in terms of teaching confidence, teamsmanship and the values of learning how to compete well. Had my daughter, or I been forced to compete with or against biological males the situation would be totally different. I am not the only one who has recognized the importance of protecting female athletes and female sports, Mississippians across my State recognized the importance of protecting equal opportunity for female athletes. Indeed, just last week, our State enacted the Mississippi Fairness Act, a law that requires athletes to compete in the division of their biological sex at birth. I am concerned that the so-called, Equality Act before us today would override the work State like Mississippi are doing to protect women and to protect women’s sports.
Chairman Durbin: (38:10)
Senator, if you could conclude please.
Senator Hyde-Smith: (38:12)
As an original co-sponsor of the Senate Bill, the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, I will continue to fight on behalf of the people in Mississippi and girls across America to protect the athletic opportunities. God loves every one of us and every one of us are his creation and we should all be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity for everyone. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (38:39)
Thank you very much Senator. Senator Blackburn from Tennessee and a member of our committee.
Mrs. Blackburn: (38:45)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I’m not sure that is on. There we go.
Chairman Durbin: (38:49)
Mrs. Blackburn: (38:52)
I, along with so many of my colleagues share great compassion for anyone who feels diminishment or discrimination. And I believe that all people should be treated with the dignity and respect and they should be treated equally. This is a constitutional guarantee. And here in the United States, women have fought hard for equal treatment. The Equality Act as drafted, undermines the fight by putting women in danger and taking away the right of women to feel safe in women only spaces like domestic violence shelters and prisons. It should be obvious when we don’t want men to have open access to women only shelters, but let’s get a few examples on the record. In Alaska, the city of Anchorage passed their own version of the Equality Act and a women’s shelter was investigated by the State Equal Rights Commission after the shelter turned away a transgender woman.
Mrs. Blackburn: (39:57)
In the end, they were vindicated by a court ruling recognizing their status as a faith based nonprofit. But imagine how it must have felt for the vulnerable women in that shelter to watch as investigators weaponized these new standards against what should have been a safe haven. A shelter in California when in the opposite direction and chose to ignore abuse by a transgender man against a group of women rather than risk a complaint. I’ve been speaking with representatives from shelters in Tennessee, and they’re extremely concerned about how the Equality Act would affect their ability, not only to protect women, but to support them mentally and emotionally. They only want to do what they do best, which is helping to make women feel safe and protected.
Mrs. Blackburn: (40:56)
Now, society doesn’t look upon incarcerated women with the same sympathy as it does abused women. But I would assert that when it comes to safety, it shouldn’t matter if those women are in shelters or in prisons, women serving sentences for crimes, they committed should not be put into situations where they cannot escape and made victims to other crimes. Women’s safety is fundamental to the fight for women’s rights. So why, I would ask my colleagues, would they push so hard for a regressive, repressive piece of legislation that walks back women’s rights and endangers women’s lives? Women should never have to fear for their safety because they’re forced to share spaces with men. I would urge my colleagues to take a step back and ask themselves why they believe that forcing vulnerable women into these dangerous situations would somehow represent a step in the right direction. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Durbin: (42:09)
Thanks Senator Blackburn. We have three guests from the house and I’d like to ask Senator Whitehouse to introduce the first Congressman.
Mr. Whitehouse: (42:16)
Thank you very much, Chairman. It’s a great pleasure for me to have the chance to introduce my friend and my colleague in the Rhode Island delegation, David Cicilline, who many of us will remember from serving so well as a manager in the impeachment proceedings. David was, by my recollection, the first Rhode Islander in government as a young state representative out in the progressive opposition wilderness to come forward as a gay person. For a long time, he was alone. This was not easy always, but David’s career is characterized by courage. So I’m very proud to welcome him to our committee today, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Durbin: (43:03)
David Cicilline: (43:06)
Thank you very much Senator Whitehouse for that warm introduction and thank you, Chairman Durbin and ranking member Grassley for inviting me to speak today. Senator Merkley and I have introduced the Equality Act each Congress since 2014, each time gaining hundreds of co-sponsors and with the bill passing the house twice. This legislation is long overdue. Equality, after all, is a founding principle of this great country. As a nation, we endeavor to afford every American equal protection under the law. Sometimes we stumble but we struggle onward. This is an opportunity to take a strong step forward and enshrine equal protection under the law for LGBTQ Americans so that we may live lives free from discrimination. It’s a time for our laws to guarantee equal rights for all people.
David Cicilline: (43:58)
I’m grateful that the American public already has a profound understanding of the need for equal protection for LGBTQ Americans. Polls consistently fine American support LGBTQ non-discrimination laws. A 2020 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that more than 8 in 10 Americans, 83%, favor laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing compared to only 16% of Americans who oppose such a law. A [inaudible 00:44:30] Research poll released this morning confirms overwhelming support for the Equality Act. A majority of Americans in every State support equal protection for the LGBTQ community. Poll after poll showed that majority is of Democrats, independents and Republicans favor non-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ people.
David Cicilline: (44:51)
Similarly, an incredible group of businesses and organizations support the Equality Act. 628 organizations from across the political spectrum ranging from the AFLCIO, the NAACP, the National PTA to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers all support this bill. Hundreds of great American companies, from Kellogg to Hershey to 3M have said they want the Equality Act to become law. I believe that most Americans would be shocked to know that they’re LGBTQ family members, friends and neighbors are not already protected from discrimination. Many Americans wrongly assume that the LGBTQ community is currently protected under existing law.
David Cicilline: (45:34)
They find it inconceivable that this group of Americans would remain unprotected by the law and this is our chance to expand the civil rights laws to ensure equal protection to all Americans. I’m pleased to say the house passed the Equality Act in a bipartisan way on February 25th. I look forward to this committee carefully reviewing legislation and to the Senate’s ultimate passage so that in preventing discrimination against millions of Americans, America will move closer to honoring the ideals upon which this great country was founded. I then thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.
Chairman Durbin: (46:11)
Thank you, Congressman. Next, we have Republican Congresswoman, Vicky Hartzler who represents the fourth district of Missouri.
Hon. Vicky Hartzler: (46:18)
Senator Durbin and ranking member, Grassley members of the committee and fellow colleagues, it is a privilege to be with you this morning. Thank you for the opportunity to testify in opposition to the Equality Act. First of all, let me say targeting someone based on their race, gender or religion is always wrong and our laws attest to that. The [inaudible 00:46:40] under consideration, however, victimizes women could be interpreted to ban women’s colleges and sororities and decimate girls sports. By federal fiat, the Equality Act creates discrimination against any American who’s reasonable, sincerely held view of human sexuality and gender conflicts with the government’s morphine ideology. This is not only wrong, but it endangers women’s safety in locker rooms, bathrooms, dorm rooms, and homeless shelters.
Hon. Vicky Hartzler: (47:11)
As a former public school teacher, I’m especially concerned about its impact on women in education. The Equality Act threatens to halt federal assistance for students at single sex colleges and universities, while Title IX provides exemptions for women’s colleges like Smith, Morehouse, and Wellesley, Title VI does not. The Equality Acts modification of Title VI will very likely deny federal financial assistance to students at iconic female institutions of higher education. The same applies to sororities and fraternities. Greek led organizations will need to become co-ed or disband. The Equality Act provides no exemptions. As the [inaudible 00:47:55] allows anyone anywhere for any reason to claim an identity, this also leaves women in single sex dormitories vulnerable to college aged males identifying or posing as women.
Hon. Vicky Hartzler: (48:07)
Women who want to be housed with other women may instead find they’ve been placed with a biological male as a roommate. A woman’s choice won’t matter. Drafted with an agenda and not to rectify seeming inequality and civil rights laws, the Equality Acts impact will also be realized in K through 12 education, especially sports. Female athletics is near and dear to my heart. I’ve competed in sports and coached track and it takes my breath away to think that under the guise of anti-discrimination, members are willing to sacrifice a young girl’s opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Rising high school track stars Selena Sewell are not even given a chance to fairly compete.
Hon. Vicky Hartzler: (48:48)
And I’d ask that the testimony from four female athletes, Selena Sewell, Alana Smith, Chelsea Mitchell, and Christina Mitchell be included in the record. In closing, I asked members of the committee to carefully consider the sweeping impact of the Equality Act on all communities, but especially how the bill wipes out nearly 50 years of Title IX successes and reject this harmful bill that will set back women’s rights and endanger their future. Thank you and I yield back.
Chairman Durbin: (49:16)
Congresswoman, without objection to the items that you have asked for will be included in the record.
Hon. Vicky Hartzler: (49:21)
Chairman Durbin: (49:22)
Our last witness from the house is Congresswoman Marie Newman of my State of Illinois. She is a co-sponsor of the bill and the mother of a transgender daughter.
Marie Newman: (49:35)
Thank you Chairman Durbin, ranking member Grassley, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and thank you for allowing me to talk today. This issue is very personal to me and I also would like to say happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone. The most important thing in life is to be authentic. I think we all understand that. As a reminder, we already have freedom of religion in our constitution, and this act does not discriminate against religion as we all know. I want to tell you the story of our family, because it is the story of millions of American families across this nation. More than five years ago, before she had transitioned, my daughter, at just 14 years old had experienced deep depression and anxiety.
Marie Newman: (50:21)
Unable to identify the cause of her pain, she told her parents that the only two solutions she felt would solve it was either suicide or running away. I’ll say that again. She was in such a spot she felt that suicide or running away were the only options. Heartbroken, but determined not to lose our child, we enrolled in a local day therapy program. One night, after her program, my daughter perked up in her chair at the dinner table, excited to share some news. She told us she had figured it out. “Mom, I’m not a boy. I’m a girl and my name is Evie Newman.” Everything had clicked at that moment. She had been pretending to be something she wasn’t, she wasn’t being authentic. And as we all know it is the hardest thing in the world to pretend every day. It was the happiest day of our lives. Our family was whole again. Still as a mother, I knew the challenges ahead.
Marie Newman: (51:20)
My daughter would not grow up in a nation where as an example, in 25 States, she could be discriminated against merely because of who she was. That was upsetting to me. She could be thrown out of a restaurant, she could be evicted from her apartment. She could be denied access to education and denied healthcare just because of who she is. On top of that, the likelihood of facing hateful, vile attacks, and she has, verbal and physical for simply existing and being her authentic self was almost a certainty. Signing the Equality Act into law isn’t going to change that reality overnight. It absolutely will not. But it will ensure that Americans like my daughter are afforded the same civil rights already extended to every other American across the nation and that’s all it’s about. It’s about equality. We’re not asking for anything special or different. Equality and nothing more.
Marie Newman: (52:20)
No American should have to live a lie. Imagine if I asked any of you on this diocese or on the committee today to simply try being someone you absolutely are not. To try being the opposite gender of the way you feel deeply. To try to be something that you are not every day is very difficult. Do this for a week, a month, a year and I guarantee you will feel a deep depression, great anxiety, and yes, even suicidal. If you pass this legislation, we can show millions of Americans that their government accepts them and we’ll protect them for who they are. I encourage all of you to not weaponize religion and not weaponize read hearings about sports.
Marie Newman: (53:08)
And I also encourage you to talk to your faith leaders and your sports directors at all of your colleges because I have talked to many of them and they encouraged me today and were excited that I was speaking out on this topic about my family. As I said in the beginning, being authentic to yourself and to everyone is the most important thing to do. Truth is real and should be a part of this act and it is. Thank you and I’m here to help any of you in any way with any questions privately or publicly. Happy to help and I yield back and thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (53:39)
Thank you Congresswoman Newman for your testimony and joining us this morning. I’m now going to turn to our panel of witnesses. We welcome five witnesses to testify about the Equality Act. I’ll introduce the majority witnesses, then I’ll turn to ranking member Grassley to introduce the minority witnesses. Our first witness on the Democratic side is Alfonzo David. He served as President of the Human Rights Campaign since 2019. He’s the first civil rights lawyer and the first person of color to serve as President of HRC in the organization’s nearly 40 year history. Dr. Edith Guffy is our second witness.
Chairman Durbin: (54:14)
She has worked for the United Church of Christ for almost 30 years. She currently serves as conference minister of the Kansas Oklahoma Conference in which she provides support for 60 churches. She’s a board member for P Flag, the first and largest organization for LGBTQ people, their parents, families, and allies. Last, and certainly not least Ms. Stella Keating is joining us today from Tacoma, Washington. Stella is only six years old. I spoke to her yesterday at length. She is completely involved in politics at every level, she has collaborated with her local city council, mayor, and state legislature from a surprisingly young age. Senator Grassley.
Chuck Grassley: (55:00)
Thank you. I have the privilege of introducing Abigail Shrier, who is an independent journalist. Her work has appeared frequently in the Wall Street Journal. She also authored a 2020 book discussing transgender youth titled, “Irreversible Damage, the Transgender Craze, Seducing Our Daughters.” She is a Yale educated lawyer who resides with her young family in Los Angeles. Mary Rice Hasson is a fellow at Washington DC’s Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her research focuses on politically effective women, families, and religious freedom. She’s a widely published author and the mother of seven.
Chairman Durbin: (55:53)
Thanks Senator Grassley. My staff has told me that I said that Stella was six years old, she’s 16, a big difference and I’m sorry for the mistake. Let me lay out the mechanics for the rest of the hearing. After we swear in the witnesses, each witness will have five minutes to provide their opening statements. There’ll be one round of questions, each Senator with five minutes to ask and please try to remain as best you can within your allotted time. Could all witnesses please stand to be sworn in if you are able. Raise your right hand, do you affirm the testimony you’re about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?
Alfonzo David: (56:33)
Chairman Durbin: (56:34)
Thank you. Let the record reflect that the witnesses have all answered in the affirmative. Mr. David, would you please proceed with your opening statement.
Alfonzo David: (56:51)
Hold on one second Chairman Durbin, I’ll be with you in a minute. Thank you so much Chairman Durbin, ranking member Grassley, and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. My name is Alfonzo David, and I’m the President of the Human Rights Campaign. The nation’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. And I’m very proud to be here today, it’s an honor and a privilege to deliver this testimony on behalf of more than three million members and supporters of the human rights campaign nationwide and our movement partners and leaders that are fighting for equality. I appear before you today, not only as a legal expert, but also as a Black gay man, a public servant and a person of faith.
Alfonzo David: (57:46)
When I returned to the United States as a refugee with my family, I saw firsthand how the freedom this nation promised was one with costly contingencies. As a Black teenager in Baltimore, I quickly came to understand that my life was considered less important because of the color of my skin. As a gay man, I came to understand that living my truth would cost me greatly from acceptance in my own family, to opportunities for pursuing my dreams. Too many people in the LGBTQ community live with the real costs of inequality, from denial of basic services, to fighting for shared survival. Despite the progress we have made, discrimination, unfortunately is alive and well in this country and we need to address it. Despite all of the work that we’ve done, we know particularly LGBTQ people of color and people who hold multiple marginalized identities face discrimination.
Alfonzo David: (58:50)
More than one out of three LGBTQ Americans face discrimination in 2020, including three out of five transgender Americans. Discrimination against our community is not only pervasive, but has devastating consequences. There is an epidemic of violence against the transgender community, particularly Black transgender women. Pushed to the margins by racism and transphobia and sexism and homophobia, Black trans women in this nation live daily with the threat of violence, a threat that is heightened by attacks at every level of government. LGBTQ people, especially people of color are more likely to live in poverty, to experience negative health outcomes and to lack access to opportunities. This must change. And you have the power to deliver the change that our communities need by making the Equality Act the law of the land.
Alfonzo David: (59:51)
They Equality Act would it codify the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock versus Clayton County and guarantee non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in many areas of life, including housing, education, credit, and jury service. It also adds sex, sexual orientation and gender identity to public accommodations and federally funded programs. Less noted but just as critical are they important protections for race and religion. For example, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 contains a narrow definition of public accommodations that in the 1960s addressed the most visible areas of race discrimination, such as hotels and lunch counters and pools. This narrow scope, however, was and continues to be insufficient to tackle race discrimination. People of color continue to face persistent discrimination on a daily basis in a range of settings, including stores, salons, car services, and taxis.
Alfonzo David: (01:00:55)
In fact, a recent study found that 53% of Black shoppers in the United States experience unfair treatment related to race. Accordingly, the Equality Act amends the law to include a range of providers of goods and services similar to the Americans with Disability Act and state laws around this nation. Notably, retail establishments, transportation services, food banks, medical providers would be considered public entities given that any member of the public could reasonably expect to go and receive goods and services from those places. Updating the law will ensure that no one is denied the opportunity to fully participate in society just because of who they are. This update to civil rights law is also necessary because of the inconsistencies that exist between States and at local levels.
Alfonzo David: (01:01:48)
By enacting inclusive non-discrimination laws and policies, many States have bettered the lives of LGBTQ people and millions of people around them in this country. Last year, for example, the Virginia Values Act made for Virginia the first Southern State to enact comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and added statewide protections for all protected characteristics, including race, sex, and religion. Despite significant steps forward, the patchwork of laws leaves millions of people, including me, subject to uncertainty and potential discrimination that impacts our day to day lives. And in addition to it’s necessity, it’s important to note that the Equality Act is supported by the overwhelming majority of the public. Well over two thirds of Americans support these protections, including 94% of Democrats, 85% of independence and 68% of Republicans.
Alfonzo David: (01:02:47)
These protections are supported by a majority of adults in all 50 States and by solid majorities across all age groups. Our nation’s top employers have also endorsed the Equality Act with nearly 400 major companies operating in all 50 States. People of faith across the political spectrum also support the Equality Act because they believe in the dignity and the worth of every person. And finally, more than 630 organizations representing civil rights, women’s rights, healthcare, education, labor, child welfare have endorsed the Equality Act.
Alfonzo David: (01:03:25)
As the late great civil rights giant representative John Lewis said two years ago when the Equality Act was introduced, “It is a must that we do what is fair, what is right and what is just.” We need the Equality Act to set all of our people free. LGBTQ people live in every part of this country, in every small town and major city, every community, every native territory. We are veterans, nurses, teachers, parents, artists. We are your colleagues. And all we are asking for is for the same protections under law that should be guaranteed to every single person in this nation. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (01:04:15)
Thanks very much, Mr. David. Our next witness is Mary Rice Hasson. Mrs. Hasson
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:04:23)
Thank you chairman Durbin, ranking member Grassley and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I’m Mary Hasson an attorney and a [inaudible 01:04:31] fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC. Let me begin by stating clearly that I believe unjust discrimination is always wrong. All Americans should be treated fairly. Affirming the dignity of all human persons is central to my Catholic faith. So to, is another truth about the human person. We’re created male or female from conception. Today, we’ve heard about the threats posed by the Equality Act to females. I share those concerns because biological sex matters in law, medicine and for many of us in the practice of our faith. The Equality Act goes where no federal law has gone before.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:05:12)
It redefined sex with no reference to biological distinctions between male and female unlike the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision. The Equality Act defines sex as stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy, sexual desires, and self perception or gender identity. Gender identity in turn is defined by characteristics regardless of sex. The Equality Act thus cements into law and ideological belief that identity is self defined regardless of the sexed body. It suppresses opposing beliefs and punishes those who dissent. But sex does matter, only females experienced female puberty, pregnancy, birth and menopause, that’s biology, and no one can self define into or out of biological reality. Biology also makes females uniquely vulnerable when safety and privacy are compromised.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:06:08)
9 out of 10 rape victims are female. When a law privileges gender identity over sex, females suffer the consequences. Alexis Licapp knows this from experience. An African American teen, Alexis learned to stand up for her beliefs early on. When her public high school began privileging gender identity over sex, granting biological males access to girl’s restrooms and locker rooms just like the Equality Act does, Alexis asked the school to protect her privacy and preserve female only restrooms. The school refused. When Alexis sued, the judge sided against her, telling her and millions of girls like her that their feelings and safety don’t matter. When gender identity is privileged over biological sex, females lose, it’s that simple. But there’s more. The Equality Act threatens serious harm to religious believers in organizations.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:07:05)
It strips away crucial protections provided by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and attacks first amendment rights as well, tipping the scales against religious believers. The Equality Act also reaches far beyond Bostock, which pertained to the workplace. By expanding public accommodations to mean wherever Americans gather, even virtually, churches, synagogues, temples, faith based schools, soup kitchens, women’s shelters will be subject to government coercion. Compromise your religious beliefs or risk endless litigation. Recipients of federal funds are also targeted. Even for the simple act of maintaining sex segregated bathrooms. This means a Muslim food bank or a Christian center for female survivors of domestic violence will be punished for doing good while following their religious teachings. The same is true for private schools participating in federal school lunch programs.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:08:03)
For private schools participating in federal school lunch programs. Urban Catholic schools provide life-changing education to low-income children. They face an untenable choice: violate their religious beliefs about sexual difference in marriage, or turn away students who rely on federal help.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:08:18)
Faith-based adoption and foster care programs are also at risk. Melissa Buck, a generous, warm-hearted woman and her husband, Chad, adopted five special needs children, thanks to St. Vincent Catholic Charities, which specializes in finding forever homes for special needs children. Matching them with loving mothers and fathers like Melissa and Chad. But Michigan has a different agenda. It ended it’s partnerships with agencies like St. Vincent to punish them and the families they serve, for their beliefs.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:08:51)
When Melissa and St. Vincent sued the state, the district court ordered Michigan to let them serve. And that court’s order contains a lesson for us today. The state’s real goal, the court said, it was not to promote nondiscriminatory child placements, but to stamp out St Vincent’s religious belief and replace it with the state’s own. The Equality Act, Mr. Chairman, betrays similar hostility. It seeks to coerce religious believers to exit the public square, unless they’re willing to trade their religious beliefs for today’s reigning ideology.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:09:26)
If the First Amendment means anything, it means protection for people to live out their beliefs, even, and especially when others disagree. For these reasons, I oppose the Equality Act. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (01:09:39)
Thank you very much. Our next witness is Ms. Edith Guffey.
Edith Guffey: (01:09:51)
Thank you, Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley and members of the committee, for the opportunity to speak today for so many who are depending on you, not only to speak, but to legislate equal treatment under the law for them.
Edith Guffey: (01:10:07)
Like all of you, I have multiple identities. I am a person of faith, an African-American woman, the leader of a faith institution and a mother. I am also one of hundreds of thousands of members of PFLAG and am honored to serve as a member of the National Board of Directors. But of all of my identities, the most important will always be a mother.
Edith Guffey: (01:10:33)
My husband and I have two adult children. They couldn’t be more different and that has always been true. They had made their own paths and we were proud of them both. At 14, our older child, Brian came out to us first as gay and later as a trans non-binary person. Brian never had any doubt that they would be loved and accepted for who they are, because that is the message they always received from my husband and me, and from the faith community of the United Church of Christ.
Edith Guffey: (01:11:08)
As an extrovert, Brian wanted to be fully out to everyone, but at the time my husband and I said, no. Not because we were ashamed, but because we were afraid for Brian’s safety. Being black and gay in a predominantly white community and school, you bet we were afraid. But as a child, then Brian had to live a conflictual reality, loved and accepted at home and church, but not fully affirmed or protected in other places. Without the Equality Act, the law does not fully protect me as a woman and it does not protect my trans non-binary child.
Edith Guffey: (01:11:50)
As a parent, I want the best for both of my children. I want Brian to have the same protections and rights as my other child, Michael. While Brian never had to worry about acceptance by their family or faith community, there life is still like that of many LGBTQ plus people, choices are framed or limited by external forces. Michael can choose to live wherever he pleases, but Brian makes those choices based on where they feel safe and local laws protect them.
Edith Guffey: (01:12:25)
We should all be able to agree on this one thing, the law should treat all our children, God’s children, equally. All of our children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Every single one of us would go to the mat for our children. None of us wants them to be turned away or discriminated against for any reason.
Edith Guffey: (01:12:50)
Now, I understand that we all come at this question from different places, and maybe this seems so simple to me because I consider the merits of the Equality Act as an African-American woman, who knows all too well, the impact and legacy of racial discrimination. And I also know how religion and faith were used to justify slavery, but that was wrong, and most faith communities today admit that.
Edith Guffey: (01:13:21)
I think we can learn from that history. No one should be denied rights and services because of who they are or who they love. Any kind of discrimination is inconsistent with the God of love that I know and trust.
Edith Guffey: (01:13:37)
Many denominations, including my own, United Church of Christ, already welcomes LGBTQI persons fully into our faith communities and value their leadership as gifted and cherish children of God. We fully support the Equality Act. While that matters me, what matters most will always be my children. And I am here as Brian’s mother primarily and for other mothers, and yes, as a person of faith. Faith is always very personal. What I believe matters.
Edith Guffey: (01:14:13)
It matters that I believe that God is love. It matters that I believe in the biblical verse to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But what really matters for Brian, for me as a woman, is the law. The Equality Act is a way for this country to make that tenant of my faith known as the biblical golden rule, the law of the land. And for me, it really is that simple. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (01:14:41)
Thank you very much, Ms. Guffey. Ms. Shrier, Abigail Shrier.
Abigail Shrier: (01:14:47)
Yes. Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley and esteemed members of this committee, gay and transgender Americans are living today with less fear and stigma, than at any point in American history. And that makes me very happy. It should make us all very proud. If S.393 merely proposed to extend employment and public housing rights to gay and transgender Americans, I would be supporting this bill instead of testifying against it. I am here today because the bill does much more. And no one who wrote it appears to have thoughtfully considered what it would mean for women and girls. Members of the committee, if your daughter or granddaughter was the top high school tennis player in her state, and then five biological boys suddenly decided at the age of 17 to identify as female, should she drop overnight to number six? Should she lose her college scholarship to a male bodied athlete who would never have qualified on the boys team? Does that strike any member of this committee as fair or just?
Abigail Shrier: (01:15:57)
If a woman in your state commits a crime, should she be put in a correctional facility with biological males, some of whom are sex offenders, some of whom may have only begun identifying as female weeks earlier? All of whom could easily overpower her.
Abigail Shrier: (01:16:15)
If a preschool has a policy that only female teachers may accompany little girls to the bathroom and your daughter’s male teacher suddenly identifies as female, ought that teacher to have a legal entitlement to accompany her. Does that strike anyone in this room as safe or sensible?
Abigail Shrier: (01:16:33)
Should a female abuse survivor at a domestic violence shelter be forced to sleep and undress next to a biological male? The plain truth is that it is not sensible, not safe and certainly not just to end these hard won protections for women and girls in the name of equality.
Abigail Shrier: (01:16:51)
For some girls, athletics is the only chance they’ll have to for the entire course of their lives. But supporters of this bill don’t appear concerned about them. They’re concerned about the progressive groups that will call you a transphobe or a homophobe, if you don’t do exactly as they say, and abandon women and girls.
Abigail Shrier: (01:17:11)
By enshrining gender identity as a protected category, this bill would make it impossible ever to legally distinguish between a woman and a biological male who claims a female identity, for whatever amount of time and for whatever reason or purpose. And gender identity can be very ephemeral. Even prominent gender therapists attests that people can be on a gender journey and identify as one thing one day and another the next. They have that freedom in America. Should we undermine women’s sports and protective spaces to allow gender fluid males a gender journey?
Abigail Shrier: (01:17:49)
Just last week after the Washington Correctional Center for Women began housing prisoners, according to gender identity, half a dozen men transferred into the women’s prison. One of the inmates raped a female in the women’s prison upon arrival. If you pass this bill, you can expect hundreds more victims like this one. And that has nothing to do with transgender people and everything to do with opportunistic self-identification by violent male felons.
Abigail Shrier: (01:18:20)
I have probably interviewed more transgender Americans than any person in this room. And I can honestly say that accepting political activists, most do not want to obliterate women’s rights and safe spaces. Most would never think of stealing women’s scholarships by forcing young women into demoralizing contests with male bodies. But gender ideology, which is at the heart of this bill, is misogyny in progressive clothing.
Abigail Shrier: (01:18:46)
Gender ideology tells women and girls that they are not entitled to their fear or their sense of unfairness, as their protective spaces are eliminated. They must never object that sports is and has always been, a matter of biology, not identity. They mustn’t assert that we keep women’s protective spaces for biological women to ensure their physical safety, regardless of how they identify, because it isn’t our identities that are at risk, it’s our bodily integrity.
Abigail Shrier: (01:19:17)
Being a woman is a lifetime commitment. It entails profound blessings, but also physical vulnerabilities. For generations, women like the late Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, fought to create sex- based protections to make life safe and fair for women. If you vote to take away those rights, don’t pretend you’ve achieved a civil rights victory. In the name of inclusivity, you’ll have made life far less safe, far less fair, and far less inclusive for America’s women and girls. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (01:19:49)
Thank you very much, Ms. Shrier. Our next witness is 16 year old, Stella Keating.
Stella Keating: (01:20:00)
Good morning. My name is Stella Keating and my pronouns are she, her. I want to start by thanking Chair Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley, their staff and the committee for the opportunity to speak to you today. It is the honor of my lifetime to be here.
Stella Keating: (01:20:17)
I’m 16 years old. I live in the state of Washington and I’m a sophomore in high school, and I just got my driver’s license, which was a great day. Like all teenagers, I have a lot of interest and the list just continues to grow. I’m really into hiking and playing chest and also the ukulele. I love history, and one of my goals is to become a civil rights attorney. A couple of months ago, I started my first part-time job. And if you ask my parents, I spend too much time on my phone.
Stella Keating: (01:20:44)
Speaking of my parents, they’re right next to me. My mom, Lisa, is on our school board and has spent years running a program on youth leadership for elementary schools. My dad, Dimitri, is a small business owner and he’s owned a local bicycle company for 25 years. One of his biggest passions is to help anybody who wants to ride a bicycle, have the opportunity to do that. Both have taught me the value of hard work, how important it is to be respectful, the responsibility we have to give back to our community and be of service to others.
Stella Keating: (01:21:14)
I mentioned before that it is the honor of my lifetime to be here. Ever since I was in fourth grade, I’ve been drawn to politics. When I was nine years old, I testified before my school board for more innovative programs in my elementary school. I actually remember, I had to stand on my toes to get to the microphone, but I didn’t care because I saw that I was making an impact. Even though I was only nine years old, they cared what a little kid had to say.
Stella Keating: (01:21:42)
Everything that I’ve done since then has focused on positive change. And that’s what’s led me to become part of a movement I helped launch three years ago called the Gender Cool Project. Gender Cool has a super simple mission: help replace opinions with real experiences, meeting transgender and non-binary youth who are thriving. So, I’d like to introduce myself again.
Stella Keating: (01:22:06)
Hi, I’m Stella and I’m transgender. I’m here before you today, representing the hundreds of thousands of kids, just like me, who are supported and loved by their family, friends, and communities across the country. Now, I want to share with you why the Equality Act is so important. Through Gender Cool, I’ve traveled across the country, both in-person and more recently, virtually, with 16 of my peers. We’ve been able to speak in front of thousands of people in the corporate world and millions more through the media.
Stella Keating: (01:22:40)
I’m so humbled by how some of the biggest companies on the planet are lifting up our voices and listening, so that they can become places where all young people like me want to work. They recognize that we are the next gen workforce. They want to attract the best talent. And they know that my generation is creating a country where everyone belongs. But that’s the good news, and here’s where things fall apart.
Stella Keating: (01:23:07)
Right now, I live in a state where I have equal protection under the law. And as a high school sophomore, I’m starting to look at colleges, and all I can think about is this. Less than half of the states in our country provide equal protection for me under the law. What happens if I want to attend a college in a state that doesn’t protect me? Right now, I could be denied medical care or be evicted for simply being transgender in many states. How’s that even right? How’s that even American?
Stella Keating: (01:23:37)
What if I’m offered a dream job in a state where I can be discriminated against? Even if my employer is supportive, I still have to live somewhere. I have to eat in restaurants and I have to have a doctor. And why am I having to worry about all this at the age of 16? This is the United States of America. The country that I love. Every young person, every person, regardless of who they are or who they love, should be able to be excited about their future. I have big goals for mine.
Stella Keating: (01:24:07)
In addition to becoming a civil rights attorney, I’m determined to run for public office. I represent America’s future. We are the next generation of small business owners, software engineers, scientists, teachers, nurses, presidents. And for my generation to achieve all that, we will. We just need to be able to live our lives.
Stella Keating: (01:24:32)
In closing, you just spent some time with me. You’ve learned about my dreams, my values, my dedication to hard work, to respecting others, even those who don’t believe I should have the same rights as all young people. I hope that our time together has helped showed you why passing the Equality Act will have such a significant, positive impact. Not only on the lives of kids like me, but on the future of our country.
Stella Keating: (01:24:56)
Thank you, Ranking Member Grassley and all the members for providing me this historic opportunity to speak. Chair Durbin, I would personally like to thank you for trusting in me to represent the voices of millions of youth across our nation ready to lead. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (01:25:14)
Thank you, Stella. Excellent presentation. I can see you as a candidate, a successful one someday. So let me start the questioning here. And we have five minute rounds. Some of our members had to go to the Florida vote and they’ll be coming in and out. That’s no sign of disrespect. It’s just the nature of our lives here.
Chairman Durbin: (01:25:33)
Let me start and say to Mr. David, it seems not the only issues involved here, but the two dominant issues that continue to reappear are questions involving the Equality Act and religion, and the Equality Act and sports, particularly women’s sports. So let me start first with the religion issue, if I might.
Chairman Durbin: (01:25:58)
I respect very much Pope Francis. I must respectfully disagree with the announcement that he made Monday, related to same sex unions. The Pope made a pronouncement through the Vatican that the blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit. He has stated before, his position on people of a different sexual orientation. There is some cloud, I guess, over exactly where the church stands. But when it comes to marriage equality, what the Pope has said, is that the Catholic church will not bless that union.
Chairman Durbin: (01:26:40)
I want to ask you, Mr. David, there are similar religions that take similar positions. What do you believe the passage of the Equality Act would do? Would it change that decision by the church or threaten it, as you know it?
Alfonzo David: (01:26:55)
Thank you, Chair Durban. The answer is no, the Equality Act would not change any pronouncements that are issued by religious institutions. Religious institutions are what they are, religious institutions. And they can determine the standards for inclusion. They can determine the structure of their churches or their synagogues or their mosques. The Equality Act doesn’t change that. The Equality Act does not affect how religious institutions function. That is very different than institutions that actually provide public accommodations, institutions that are open to the public and are providing goods and services to the public.
Alfonzo David: (01:27:36)
In those cases, yes, I, as a black man or I as a gay man, should be able to walk into a store and not face discrimination. That is very different than whether or not I would have the right to marry in a church. I don’t have that right. And the Equality Act would not change that.
Chairman Durbin: (01:27:54)
So let me, if I can, first preface my question to Stella Keating. I’m certain, and I want to make it clear on the record, I’m don’t want to speak for others, but I think I might be. There is no one who condones sexual harassment or sexual assault under any circumstances, period. And there’s no intent to weaken those standards by anyone involved in this debate here.
Chairman Durbin: (01:28:23)
But a great deal has been said about the impact of this law on people in their high school, college years, particularly those who participate in sports. Well, you’re the only expert on the panel, Ms. Keating, when it comes to the high school years, because you’re a high school, sophomore yourself. And I’d like to have your reaction to this point about transgender women participating in sports. And also, if you would reflect for a moment as you, your testimony did on the real concerns you have beyond that high school experience, as to what you might face in college.
Stella Keating: (01:29:03)
Thank you for your question, Senator. I honestly am not a very sporty person and I don’t participate in very many sports. But what I can tell you though, is that last year, actually in my freshman year, before COVID hit, I was planning on joining my girls bowling team at my high school. And I wanted to do it because I wanted to just hang out with my friends. A lot of my friends were on this bowling team and I really wanted to just hang out with them, and that was basically it. And I can tell you that the majority trend of the transgender people who join sports just want to hang out with their friends, and that’s basically it.
Stella Keating: (01:29:50)
And for beyond high school and going into college, the Equality Act will also really help me feel safe to whatever college I go to. Because there is a huge chance that I could fall in love with another college that’s outside of my state. And if the Equality Act is not being enacted, then I won’t be protected there and then I can’t go to that college. And so the Equality Act will let me attend any college that I’d like to.
Chairman Durbin: (01:30:24)
Thank you very much. I’d like to ask Mr. David, Ms. Shrier, in her testimony said gay and transgender Americans are living today with less fear and stigma than any point in American history. Could you reflect on that statement and the experience or information you’ve gathered, in terms of discrimination and harassment, even violence facing LGBTQ Americans?
Alfonzo David: (01:30:51)
Yes, absolutely. Two thirds of LGBTQ people in this country report experiencing discrimination. Last year alone, we had 44 transgender women who were killed in this country; more than any other year in recorded history.
Alfonzo David: (01:31:09)
So I appreciate the contention that LGBTQ people are now living free, free from fear of discrimination and violence, but that does not reflect the facts. The facts are very clear, that as LGBTQ people living in this country, we live with fear. We live not knowing if we can walk home safely at night. And that’s reflected in the fact that 44 transgender women, most of them black and brown, were killed in this country last year, more than any other year in recorded history.
Alfonzo David: (01:31:41)
And it’s worth repeating, because I think as we talk about the Equality Act, we have to make sure that our policies are driven by facts, not by fear. And unfortunately, a lot of the information that we’ve seen advanced is misinformation about the Equality Act. The Equality Act does not in any way, undermine the rights of others. It simply provides legal protections to LGBTQ people.
Alfonzo David: (01:32:07)
And as I’ve stated in my opening statement, again, worth repeating, and as Stella said, in 29 states in this country, we face discrimination. That means I could face discrimination, getting into a taxi or into a car service. I could face discrimination going into a retail store. I could face discrimination serving on a jury. That’s real, and that is happening every single day to LGBTQ people. That is why we are asking to pass the Equality Act, so that we are treated in the same way as everyone else.
Alfonzo David: (01:32:40)
Ask yourselves, is it fair that I am protected from discrimination as a black man, but if I walk into a room as a gay man, I’m not protected? As Stella said, that is not the country and those are not the ideals that support our democracy. And that is why we’re fighting for the Equality Act.
Chairman Durbin: (01:32:57)
Thank you very much. Senator Grassley.
Chuck Grassley: (01:32:58)
I’ll start with Ms. Shrier, according to a young athlete named Chelsea Mitchell and she’s pictured up here, runs track at Canton High School, Connecticut. She lost multiple state championships because her state’s policy ignores the biological advantages of males over females in athletics. She maintains in a written statement that I’d like to include in the record, and I want to partially quote. “It isn’t fair and it isn’t right. We need separate sports categories based upon biological sex in order to fairly compete. This is what title nine was intended, to protect and preserve. If biological males are permitted to compete in female sports, there will no longer be females sports as we know it.” End of quote.
Chuck Grassley: (01:33:48)
So to my panelists, how big is the difference between young men and women in sports?
Abigail Shrier: (01:33:56)
The difference is massive. The biological effects that occur at male puberty create an unbridgeable gap between men and women, specifically with regard to contests of strength and speed. So the organizational effects of testosterone, even if the bioactive level of testosterone is later brought down, the permanent organizational effects of testosterone, give men larger hearts, larger lungs, vastly greater muscle mass, bone density, fast-twitch muscle fiber, all things necessary in contests of strength and speed.
Abigail Shrier: (01:34:31)
And in her own state where two biological boys with no standout achievements on the boys team, were able to compete with the top female athletes, in 2019, they walked away with 13 out of 14 championship title events.
Chuck Grassley: (01:34:50)
Some transgender individuals will use puberty blockers prior to adolescence while others will not. What can you tell us about this subject and how it could affect transgender athletes who participate in women’s sports? And you may have touched on a little bit already, but expand on it if you want to.
Abigail Shrier: (01:35:08)
So in my research, I have come to the realization that that puberty is certainly a major dividing line, in terms of the permanent and unbridgeable advantages it confers on male bodies. So I think that it’s sensible to arrive at a nuanced solution, so that transgender children and youth can fully participate in sports, which I hope they can and should always feel safe and secure and able to do.
Abigail Shrier: (01:35:40)
But the Equality Act allows for no nuance. It applies a wrecking ball to female sports by insisting that any male who claims to be female for any amount of time, in his senior year, perhaps, when he’s eyeing college scholarships, has full legal entitlement to walk onto the girls team and take one of those.
Chuck Grassley: (01:36:02)
To you also, some have argued that the Equality Act has loop holes that could enable criminals to enter sex-specific settings, like girls runaway shelters and exploit vulnerable girls who reside in the facilities. This is because the bill is overbroad and changes the legal definition of the term sex in a way that eases women from, or erases women from anti-discrimination laws, education and from the playing field.
Chuck Grassley: (01:36:35)
So do we have reason to be concerned that anyone might views the act’s legal protections? I assume there’s a huge disincentive to do so because transgender individuals face a lot of discrimination. But are there loopholes in the act that bad actors could exploit to hurt women or girls in these shelters?
Abigail Shrier: (01:36:56)
You don’t need to be transgendered to take advantage of this act. This is not about transgender people being violent. They aren’t violent. That would be a libel against them. This is about the fact that the law is so overbroad that any male felon can announce he’s a female, make absolutely no changes and transfer to a woman’s prison.
Chuck Grassley: (01:37:18)
Let me ask Ms. Hanson, some have argued that the Equality Act would likely resolve in an end to federal security relief and disaster relief for thousands of religious schools. They also say that it might result in years of unnecessarily protected litigation for houses of worship and other faith based entities. And they say it would compel an individual to federal partnerships with thousands of faith based programs that serve the most vulnerable people in the United States. Are they correct? And if you want to say why that’d be worthwhile too.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:38:02)
Thank you, Senator. Yes, those are correct concerns. And if I can go back to a point that Mr. Alphonso was making earlier, where he said in response to the chairman’s question, that the Equality Act was not going to affect religions and people of faith. And yet the distinction he drew is inside your church and your beliefs and the ability to live your faith out in the public square. And as Justice Thomas wrote in Obergefell: the decision on same-sex marriage, he talked about religious liberty, including not just the right to believe, but freedom of action. And in this country, we’ve been blessed that we have a robust civil society of people of all faiths, whether it’s Muslim or Jewish or Christian or Catholic, that contribute to caring for the most vulnerable, because their faith inspires them to do so. And in fact, the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation puts a number on it. And they said that religious contributions to the economy amount to about 1.2 trillion.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:39:15)
But when you get to looking at things like substance abuse and recovery and things like that, we can see the dynamic difference that houses of worship make, that faith inspired activities make in people’s lives. And so it saves the government by having faith inspired organizations working with the most vulnerable. It saves the government about $3.6 billion a year. But more importantly, it saves about 20,000 lives. And so this is because people of faith carry out their beliefs.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:39:52)
And what the Equality Act does, is it slams the door. It says, “Get back inside, and you cannot live your beliefs. You cannot act as a person of faith who holds these particular beliefs out in the public square.” And that’s not equality. That’s not fairness. That’s not true civil rights. We don’t expand the safety and freedom of one group by taking down systems that are serving so many people. We need to find a way to respect the ability of people of faith, to take their whole selves into the public square and to live out their beliefs in a way that serves so many.
Chuck Grassley: (01:40:32)
My time’s up. If there’s a second round, I’ll be back. If there isn’t, I’ll submit several questions for answer in writing.
Chairman Durbin: (01:40:39)
Thank you, Senator Grassley. I believe Senator Leahy is available by remote. Senator, are you there?
Senator Leahy: (01:40:50)
Okay. I think I’m coming through now. Can you hear me?
Chairman Durbin: (01:40:53)
You’re coming through loud and clear. You have five minutes. Take it away, Senator Leahy.
Senator Leahy: (01:40:57)
Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I’m glad you’re having these hearings. And I know you worked with me when I led the effort to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act back in 2013, the Leahy Crapo Bill, that brought bipartisan support. We made sure that we greatly expanded Violence Against Women Act to cover the LGBTQ community, Native American community and the sexual exploitation of children.
Senator Leahy: (01:41:39)
We got an overwhelming vote, even though we heard some of it in the Senate and in the House when President Obama signed it into law. I mentioned that because some of the same concerns being expressed by your legislation, we heard then, and we answered them as you’re answering this.
Senator Leahy: (01:41:59)
Now in this, I would ask as the Senate.
Senator Leahy: (01:42:03)
In this, I would ask as the Senate works to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, are LGBTQ survivors facing barriers to access in services the Congress should be aware of? Would somebody like to answer that? [inaudible 01:42:36] While we’re waiting for somebody to come back with an answer on that, I would also ask, because I chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, I want to ensure that the non-discrimination provisions about what translates to funds that are reaching LGBTQ survivors of violence directly and effectively. Then you have [crosstalk 01:43:05]
Alfonzo David: (01:43:05)
Senator Leahy, this is Alphonso [crosstalk 01:43:08] I’m happy to answer the question that you pose about VAWA. I was on mute.
Senator Leahy: (01:43:11)
Go ahead. And also, would you talk about where survivors of abuse, where do they want most likely wanting to reach services? Because, that’s a matter it’s coming out before the Appropriations Committed. Go ahead, sir.
Alfonzo David: (01:43:32)
Sure. So with respect to the Violence Against Women Act, as you know, it is up for reauthorization. And some of the same arguments that you mentioned that are being raised with respect to the Equality Act, we heard back then and none of those arguments came true. I think it’s important to note that women who are survivors of domestic violence are going, in many cases, to facilities and institutions to seek help. And if we don’t have protections for LGBTQ people and you are actually going to use religion as a shield, you can imagine instances where women are turned away because they are divorced. Or women are turned away because they’re LGBTQ, or women are turned away because they’re transgender.
Alfonzo David: (01:44:17)
We are seeing instances where religion again has been used as a shield, and it can not be used as a shield in this instance. Violence, unfortunately, exist in our communities. And we know that survivors of violence seek out support from many facilities. And if you’re open to the public and you’re providing those services to the public, how can you justify denying services to someone based on their gender identity, their sexual orientation or their status?
Alfonzo David: (01:44:44)
So again, those arguments we’ve heard before with respect to VAWA and how it would have such a negative impact on facilities operating, we haven’t seen to be the case. I also think it’s important to highlight that we’ve had civil rights laws on the books since the 1970s. Minnesota. We know that laws have been on the books since the 1970s and the sky didn’t fall. We know that civil rights laws have protected LGBTQ people, comprehensive laws, Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia, New Mexico. And the claims that are being asserted now are not realized in those states. So, as I said before, I think it’s important as we talk about policy, to make sure that our policies are being driven by facts not by fear. Because we’ve heard the fears and we know that those fears were not materializing in those states.
Senator Leahy: (01:45:39)
Mr. David, I appreciate your answer. And as you know, I’m wearing the hat as a member of the Judiciary Committee, but also as chair of the Appropriations Committee where we’re going to [inaudible 01:45:53] this is very helpful. In the time I have left I’m going to put my other questions in the record, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to ask a question, I saw Stella Keating on here before and I direct this question to her because in Vermont and across the country, the pandemic has posed unique challenges to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The PRIDE center in Vermont reports the number of survivors seeking services has doubled during the pandemic. And for LGBTQ youth, particularly in rural areas, it’s been difficult to get help.
Senator Leahy: (01:46:34)
So, Ms. Keating, let me ask you… First off, thank you for being here and speaking out as you did. I listened to your testimony earlier. Can you talk to us about the challenges that you’ve experienced during the pandemic and how specialized programs for transgender could and should help?
Stella Keating: (01:46:57)
Thank you for your question, Senator. And I will be honest, I’m not the expert on all of this. And I actually would ask that maybe Mr. David would respond, just because I am not an expert at this subject.
Senator Leahy: (01:47:15)
Is it true that the numbers of survivors seeking services has doubled during the course of pandemic in Vermont? Well, let me ask Mr. David if he’d like to respond on the question then.
Alfonzo David: (01:47:33)
Senator Leahy: (01:47:34)
[crosstalk 01:47:34] can add to their answers later on if they want. And thank you, Ms. Keating. Mr. David?
Alfonzo David: (01:47:42)
Senator Leahy, we have seen an increase in domestic violence victims seeking shelter and support as a result of COVID-19. And as I said before, we need to make sure that the services that are being provided are being provided in a nondiscriminatory way. Unfortunately, in some states, 29 states in this country do not have comprehensive legal protections. So if you live in one of those states and you’re LGBTQ and you’re a victim of domestic violence, you may face discrimination in trying to seek out resources and services. This is very real for people especially because we have been, as you know, dealing with COVID-19 for now more than a year. So that is a very real reality for people. And we’re seeing an increase in the number of domestic violence victims that are seeking support and shelter.
Senator Leahy: (01:48:30)
Well, thank you, Mr. David. I’m going to keep that in mind when the funding comes, federal funding, to these programs. I don’t want discrimination of any sort. Mr. Chairman, I will submit other questions for the record if I might?
Thank you Senator Leahy. Senator Cornyn.
Chuck Grassley: (01:48:55)
Ms. [inaudible 01:48:57] pronounce your last name for me? [inaudible 01:48:59].
Abigail Shrier: (01:48:58)
Chuck Grassley: (01:48:59)
Shrier. Thank you. I know that you are a journalist by profession, but I am curious how you were drawn into this discussion. I know you’ve written a book on the topic. Could you describe a little bit about what brought you into this topic?
Abigail Shrier: (01:49:17)
Yes, Senator. A reader wrote to me and she told me that her daughter who had never shown any signs of gender dysphoria in her youth, but nonetheless had other mental health problems. She had mental health problems, she had anxiety and depression and some other problems but she never had anything like gender dysphoria. Nonetheless, she went off to college and with a group of girlfriends, they all decided within a short period of time they were transgender.
Abigail Shrier: (01:49:48)
She told me that there was a sudden spike in adolescent girls deciding they were transgender often under peer and social media influence. And she told me that this was occurring all across the West and no one wanted to report on it. And I tried to find an investigative journalist who would take this up. And I sent all the contacts to an investigative journalist, and when I realized no one else wanted to take this up I wrote a first piece about it for the Wall Street Journal.
Chuck Grassley: (01:50:20)
Ms. Hasson, I’m curious about the impact of the so-called Equality Act on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is a bipartisan piece of legislation signed into law by President Clinton. RIFRA, as it’s sometimes called, requires the courts to strike a sensible balance between religious Liberty and competing prior government interests. What it doesn’t say is that religious liberties always win. In fact, a lot of the time courts find that the government interest outweighs the religious objection under a balancing test. In your view, how does the so-called Equality Act change the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? That question is for Ms. Hasson. [inaudible 01:51:26] I know in the age of Zoom sometimes we are all technologically challenged.
Chuck Grassley: (01:51:31)
Let me go on to another question and maybe she can rejoin us. What I’m trying to figure out, Ms. Shrier, again I’m looking at things from battered women’s shelters to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I believe you’ve mentioned Title Nine, certainly Senator Hyde-Smith did. As a father of two daughters, I still think it’s important for young girls to get the confidence and physical conditioning and the full ability to participate in sports under Title Nine.
Chuck Grassley: (01:52:07)
Then I think about faith-based organizations provide services like foster care, religious colleges and universities, we have major universities founded by religious faiths, adoption agencies. Am I wrong to be concerned about the Equality Act having a negative impact on each of those institutions and current laws?
Abigail Shrier: (01:52:41)
I don’t think you’re wrong, Senator. The plain text of the act exempts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I believe it abrogates it, it wouldn’t apply to create a religious exemption. But, obviously, Miss Hasson was here to speak about that. As for female athletes, I do think it’s worth noting that they are the only ones asked to sacrifice here for the sake of the Equality Act. The sacrifice is entirely on the shoulders of women and girls. Men have no comparable sacrifice when a biological female enters their spaces or where on a biological female, however she identifies, competes with them in sports. It doesn’t threaten their spaces. It doesn’t threaten their safety and it doesn’t threaten their opportunities.
Chuck Grassley: (01:53:37)
Miss Hasson are you still with us?
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:53:39)
I am. I am, I hope you can hear.
Chuck Grassley: (01:53:41)
Could you talk about the impact of the so-called Equality Act, which I think it’d be probably be better entitled the preferential treatment act than the Equality Act, but its impact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:53:55)
Yes. It’s written specifically into the Equality Act that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not going to be available as a defense or as a source of a claim. And so when we think about the states as sort of the laboratories of how these kinds of protections for sexual orientation and gender identity workout, we’ve seen numerous cases brought that have relied on the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. So that people of faith can live their beliefs out in the public square.
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:54:26)
So with this Equality Act, by stripping those protections, it puts the thumb on the scale against people of faith. The other thing that the Equality Act does is that it limits or attempts to limit by recourse to First Amendment claims by saying in the statute that this statute by definition serves a compelling governmental interest and it is the least restrictive alternative. So again, it sort of tips the scale in a way that says, frankly, to people of faith, “You’re not welcome. You’re not welcome to serve. You’re not welcome to bring your faith into the public square.” And it’s unnecessary, we can protect the most vulnerable without telling people of faith that there’s no place for them.
Chuck Grassley: (01:55:17)
How does it make you feel that under the bill, it refers to marriage between a man and a woman as a sex stereotype and stigmatizes the belief of hundreds of millions of Americans including Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims?
Mary Rice Hasson: (01:55:36)
I noticed that. That, that was listed as an example of a sex stereotype. And here, I would just remind the committee and all Americans, how Justice Kennedy spoke about this. That in the Obergefell decision, he talked about the honorable beliefs that people have held for centuries regarding marriage as between a man and a woman. And so people of faith need to have space to believe what they believe and to live that out authentically. And it shouldn’t be disparaged and certainly not in statutory language.
Chris Coons: (01:56:16)
Thank you, Senator Cornyn. In the absence of the Chairman who has gone to the floor to vote, I will question next. If I might first to Ms. Keating, thank you for sharing your personal experiences with us. I think that was important testimony. And as a parent myself, I know your parents Lisa and Dmitri must be unbelievably proud of you and your courage in testifying today.
Chris Coons: (01:56:38)
There’s been a lot of discussion so far about the perspective of the faith community on the Equality Act. I wanted to contribute to that today, if I might. Dr. Guffey, you’ve spoken about your personal faith and how it informs your belief that all of us should be treated with dignity and respect and not discriminated against. My own faith also informs my view nobody should have to face discrimination in housing, in the workplace, in accommodations and access to public services because of who they are or who they love.
Chris Coons: (01:57:09)
Yesterday, I met with a group of leaders from Faith For Equality, a coalition that’s collected 17,000 signatures from across the country. Literally, every state in the country and I’ll submit this for the record. But it is a petition of clergy, community leaders, advocates, and people of faith from literally every state who support the Equality Act.
Chris Coons: (01:57:32)
It was Rabbi Jack Moline, President of the Interfaith Alliance, who introduced me to Faith for Equality. Some of the leaders are well-known like Sister Simone Campbell, the Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, I suspect better known as one of the leaders of Nuns on the Bus. Reverend Jennifer Butler, the CEO of Faith and Public Life Action from my own denomination, from the Presbyterian Church, a network of 50,000 faith leaders. Maggie Siddiq the faith and progressive policy initiative leader at the Center for American Progress and others.
Chris Coons: (01:58:03)
More generally, the Equality Act is specifically endorsed by 120 faith based organizations in addition to these thousands of individuals. So let me, if I might, Dr. Guffey asked you… I think it’s important to dispel the misperception about what this law would and wouldn’t do, and in particular, directly in the exercise of faith in it’s practice and worship. In your view, is there any way the Equality Act would result in houses of worship being forced to perform services, activities, actions, to which they object as a matter of their faith or doctrine?
Edith Guffey: (01:58:42)
Thank you for that question. And thank you for the opportunity to address this. As I said in my statement, faith is so important and is a bedrock for so many people. And there is really nothing in the Equality Act that will force any house of worship to do anything that that is against their faith. I think one of the things that is so important to remember is we are all going to always have differences of opinion where the issues of faith are concerned. So the real issue here is about the law and equal treatment under the law. Because, I am never going to change anyone’s mind about their faith and neither should I try. And neither should they try to change my mind about my faith. So what really matters is the law and that’s all this is about, and that is equal treatment under the law. The Equality Act requires no church to do anything under the Equality Act. The Equality Act really is about equal treatment under the law.
Chris Coons: (02:00:04)
Dr. Guffey, you also spoke-
Edith Guffey: (02:00:05)
And we [crosstalk 02:00:09]
Chris Coons: (02:00:08)
Dr. Guffey, if I might, you also spoke about your own experiences and your views as the mother of a transgender child, something we also heard from the Congresswoman from Illinois, Congresswoman Newman. For those of us on the committee who are parents, what would you urge us to think about or to weigh as we consider this bill and the path forward?
Edith Guffey: (02:00:35)
I really would ask you to consider how would you like your own child to be treated? If it were your child, how would you like your child to be treated? Period. Without all of the other distractions, what would you want for your child? Because, that’s the bottom line. It’s not a choice, no one asked… This is how God has created your child, and how would you like for them to be treated? Equal treatment under the law, that’s what it is about.
Chris Coons: (02:01:13)
Thank you, Dr. Guffey. If you might, briefly Mr. David, could you also speak to the question of whether the Equality Act will compel faith communities to do anything specifically that is against their doctrine or practice or beliefs in how they conduct themselves in houses of worship? And then I will hand this off to the next Republican questioner. Thank you.
Alfonzo David: (02:01:33)
Sure. Thank you for that question, Senator. The answer to your question is no. Religious based institutions will not be required to change their faith or their practices. And specifically there was a question or a reference made to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Equality Act does not get rid of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It simply restores the Religion Freedom and Restoration Act to its original intent. Which was, it was not to be used as a sword to impose religious beliefs on others. But, instead, as a shield against discrimination.
Alfonzo David: (02:02:08)
The Equality Act simply clarifies that RIFRA can not be used to defend discrimination in civil rights law. It does not alter, it does not amend the RIRFA standard in any way in any type of claim. When RIFRA was passed, the debate centered on how to protect minority religious practices. Including, for example, ensuring that Native Americans could engage in traditional religious practices, Jewish children could wear yamakas in public schools, or Muslim firefighters could wear beards. Nothing in the Equality Act changes that.
Alfonzo David: (02:02:40)
As we know, courts have long rejected religious claims as a reason to deny civil rights protections, including those based on race and sex. And the same analysis would apply here. So I do think, going back to Dr. Guffey, it’s important that we focus on the facts. The Equality Act does not do what our opponents are claiming it to do. You can just simply look at the text and it will be very clear that it simply clarifies what the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was intended to do.
Thank you very much.
Chris Coons: (02:03:14)
Thank you for your testimony, Senator Cotton.
Tom Cotton: (02:03:20)
So the Democrats are calling this bill the Equality Act. Let’s look a little bit more carefully about what this kind of equality would be. All across America day you will find millions of people who’ve dedicated their lives to caring for the most vulnerable Americans. They’re playing with foster kids who are orphaned or have never known their parents. Sheltering women who have been badly abused by a boyfriend or a husband, making children with down syndrome smile and know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Tom Cotton: (02:03:50)
You may not know the names of these Americans, you may never know the name of them. Because they don’t seek out the spotlight, they don’t have slick publicists or glossy profiles written in the liberal media. But these extraordinary Americans pour out their time and energy every day in charities, clinics, and schools, whether out of simple kindness or deep religious faith. Forty percent of the top fifty charities in the United States are faith-based and religious institutions provide more than $1 trillion in societal benefit every year.
Tom Cotton: (02:04:25)
If this bill passes a bureaucrat in Washington, however, may show up at their doorstep one day, or an official looking letter may arrive in the mail and the bureaucrat will ask whether the charity operates according to beliefs about gender identity that were totally and completely novel until just yesterday, and when they become mandatory, even though they remain deeply unpopular with the American people. And if these citizens refuse, whether out a faith or common sense or both, they will be punished.
Tom Cotton: (02:05:03)
Their religious schools will be cut off from federal aid. They’re battered women’s shelters will be sued for supposedly discrimination for refusing to admit men. Millions of Americans will be treated as second class citizens and threatened with lawsuits simply for believing that men are men and women are women. That is the heart of this so-called Equality Act. Most Americans believe this is wrong-headed, even if they are too scared to say it for fear of being kicked off social media or losing their job or losing their spot in school.
Tom Cotton: (02:05:47)
But I am not scared to say it, and I will say it for them. And I’m glad that we have a few of them here today to say it as well. So let me ask you Ms. Shrier, if the Equality Act were to become law, would it predictably shutter or punish thousands of charities, clinics, community services and schools across the country?
Abigail Shrier: (02:06:09)
Tom Cotton: (02:06:10)
And how exactly would it do that?
Abigail Shrier: (02:06:15)
I believe any organization or any school that did not accept, that held to a biological view base of sex as part of its religious belief, would come in the cross hairs of this new anti-discrimination law.
Tom Cotton: (02:06:33)
Thank you. Ms Hasson, let me turn to you virtually. Would the Equality Act shutter or punished thousands of these charities, institutions, schools, and other well-meaning Americans who are trying to help their fellow citizens?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:06:53)
Absolutely. And one core of this is the refusal to recognize the difference between biological sex. So any religious house of worship, a faith-based charity that abides by restrictions based on biological sex. So for example, if you have a Jewish charitable outreach that separates men and women, it’s going to be subject to a discrimination lawsuit because they’re going to be risking violation of that provision protecting gender identity. So it is not true to say that people of faith don’t lose anything. We lose everything. This just prevents the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from being available to us. It’s a complete, just radical, radical change in the rights of religious Americans.
Tom Cotton: (02:07:45)
Thank you, Ms. Hasson. Let me ask one final topic, in closing, just to make this concrete. Ms. Shrier, do you know who holds the women’s world record in the 100 meter and the 200 meter dashes?
Abigail Shrier: (02:07:59)
I believe it’s Allyson Felix.
Tom Cotton: (02:08:01)
It’s the late-great Laurence Griffith Joyner. Flo-Jo, to millions of her fans. One of the most exciting, dynamic, amazing athletes I’ve seen in my lifetime. I can remember watching her set those records now 33 years ago. The fastest woman to ever run in recorded history. No woman has ever run faster than Flo-Jo. You knew who has run faster than Flo-Jo? Seventy-six high school boys in America in 2019 alone. High school boys, not grown men, and just in America. Not all around the world. Ms. Shrier, is it really fair to allow biological men to compete against women in sports if 76 high school boys can run faster than the fastest woman in the history of the world?
Abigail Shrier: (02:08:57)
No, it is not. It would end women’s sports.
Tom Cotton: (02:09:00)
Richard Blumenthal: (02:09:06)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to join in expressing my appreciation to you for this historic hearing. What a wonderfully appropriate way to begin your tenure, Mr. Chairman, with the Equality Act. We’ve heard a lot of misinformed criticism of the Equality Act from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. One of the oft repeated criticisms is that it is misnamed. Actually, no name could be more appropriate for this measure than the Equality Act and no measure better deserves this name, the Equality Act.
Richard Blumenthal: (02:09:53)
The truth is pretty straight forward. The Equality Act would, very simply, protect the LGBTQ plus Americans in all 50 States from discrimination. It would ensure that everyone is free to go about their daily lives, to go to the store, to shop online, to take a bus ride, find a home, to get healthcare without the fear of harassment or discrimination. This issue should not be partisan. It is truly an American cause. In 1991, Connecticut became one of the first States to pass a law protecting persons from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Connecticut expanded this protection to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression in 2011. I am deeply proud to be from a state that respects equality and honors that respect with action.
Richard Blumenthal: (02:11:03)
Danielle and Jennifer Honcho were both born and raised in Connecticut and later they fell in love and they married. They started a family in Connecticut. When they moved to Bristol, Tennessee to be closer to extended family, Daniel, Jennifer and their daughters became vulnerable to discrimination in public places like restaurants, shops, and doctor’s offices. After 18 months in Tennessee, where they experienced varying levels of repugnant discrimination at work, in daily life and elsewhere, they decided to move.
Richard Blumenthal: (02:11:40)
Danielle and Jennifer support the Equality Act because in their words, quote, “No one should have to worry about whether they will experience discrimination when choosing a new home or deciding where to relocate a family.” In many ways, we’ve made progress in the fight against discrimination against LGBT American. Connecticut is now one of 22 States to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But under current law, many Americans don’t enjoy those same protections. Twenty-eight states do not have such a law on the books protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination.
Richard Blumenthal: (02:12:33)
The lack of nationwide protection scandalously leaves Americans like Danielle and Jennifer uncertain about their rights, in limbo depending on where they choose to live or when they travel. Including people from Connecticut who traveled to other states and are subject to discrimination. We are one nation and the people of Connecticut deserve that protection wherever they go. Traveling, moving and enjoying the privileges of our Constitution and rights. The Equality Act would codify and strengthen the progress that we’ve made already in states like Connecticut in the courts. And a lot of the arguments made against it are based either on misinformation or deliberate distortion. I’m proud to support this act, and I’d like to ask Mr. David, briefly, can you describe the ways in which the patchwork of state laws impacts the experience of LGBTQ American?
Alfonzo David: (02:13:54)
Sure. Thank you so much for the question, Senator. The patchwork of laws that exist in this country makes it very difficult for LGBTQ people to thrive. If I obtain a job in one part of the state but have to move to another part of the country, I may lose some protections. And there are some States that have ordinances that protect LGBTQ people, but in other parts of that state they don’t have those protections.
Alfonzo David: (02:14:22)
It’s simply not fair. And it goes to the point that I was making earlier, the contention that providing these protections to LGBTQ people in some way will result in the sky falling, will compromise women’s rights is not true. Because if it was true, we would have seen it already. We would have seen it in the states that I’ve had, just like Connecticut, the states that have had non-discrimination laws in the books for decades.
Alfonzo David: (02:14:48)
I mention Illinois, I mention other states that have had these on the books for years and we have not seen that reality. But the reality that we are seeing is that two thirds of LGBTQ people face discrimination. The reality we are seeing, is that 44 transgender women have been killed in this country. That’s the reality that we’re trying to address. And we know that we can address those concerns with the Equality Act. We’re only trying to make sure that we’re being treated equally under law. And all of the claims about… And I know, Senator, you we’re not asking this question specifically, but I think it’s worth highlighting this concern about sports.
Alfonzo David: (02:15:29)
The Equality Act does not force anyone to do anything other than not to discriminate. The legislation doesn’t create some new reality. It simply allows transgender students to not be discriminated against in sports. And one final point, 20 States, the NCAA, and even international Olympic committees already allow transgender athletes to participate and have for years.
Richard Blumenthal: (02:15:51)
Thanks for your eloquent testimony, today. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Senator Blumenthal. Senator Lee?
Mike Lee: (02:15:58)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Under this legislation, it-
Senator Lee: (02:16:03)
Under this legislation, it appears the churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious buildings would likely be considered public accommodations, particularly if they’re also opened up from time to time to the public for any reason, including for use as homeless shelters, soup kitchens. But for that matter, any public gathering can render any building a place of public accommodation. The language is rather significantly broad and would almost inevitably put this law in a position of occupying a more significant place with respect to religious institutions. And Ms. Hasson, I’d like to start with you. Does the act exempt churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, or any houses of worship from being considered public accommodations?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:17:12)
No, to the contrary. What this does is it expands that definition of public accommodations from the four categories that were previously in civil rights law to an almost unlimited number of activities and places that don’t even need to be actual physical places. So it includes virtual activities and things like that. So it’s very easy for a church that does anything where it opens the doors to the community, which is very much a part of a faith-based mission, it opens the doors for them to be subject to discrimination suits because they’re now going to be considered a public accommodation in the same way as a stadium or something like that. So that’s one of the most damaging and threatening aspects of this particular act.
Senator Lee: (02:17:58)
Okay. So a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a temple, or other place of worship is now treated under this bill if it became law, the same way it would be if it were a restaurant or a hotel or a stadium. Now what about their connected offices that provide some sort of services including for use as soup kitchens or shelters? Wouldn’t they also be considered public accommodations to that point?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:18:27)
Yes. All of those things would arguably be under this broad sweep of public accommodations. And so-
Senator Lee: (02:18:37)
Let’s suppose, for example, that you’ve got maybe a mosque or a synagogue that happens to rely currently on federal grants to help bolster security against threats based on religion or ethnicity, or maybe both. By virtue of accepting those grants, would the mosque or the synagogue additionally potentially become subject to penalties under this act?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:19:06)
Yes, because they’re going to be opening themselves up to being within the parameters of the Equality Act if they’re accepting federal benefits or recipient of federal funds, or if they’re acting as a public accommodation under this expansive definition. And the key here is, if they are acting in that way, under the Equality Act, they do not have recourse to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense for that. So it’s expanding their potential liability and vulnerability, and at the same time, pulling away what has been a tremendously important statute for religious people.
Senator Lee: (02:19:44)
Okay. So this is interesting and troubling, especially when you add to it the fact that there are some religious traditions with a lot of followers in this country, including Orthodox Jewish services and many Muslim services where people sit in different places based on their sex during religious services. So would a Muslim or an Orthodox Jewish congregation be able to continue doing that as they have for in some cases, thousands of years? Would that suddenly become unlawful? If they’re places of public accommodation and if you can’t treat people differently based on their sex, what would remain of those religious denominations ability to continue to worship as they deem fit?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:20:40)
They’d be wearing a straight jacket. They could not live and carry out their faith, even within their own buildings under this act. So it’s a tremendous-
Senator Lee: (02:20:51)
Okay. We’ve heard over and over again, that this law isn’t designed to force religious organizations to change their practices, to change the way they worship. But if what you’re telling me is true, Ms. Hasson, those arguments aren’t right, are they? In fact, they’re very wrong, aren’t they?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:21:12)
It’s very deceptive actually, because sure, it doesn’t change what we believe, but to be a person of faith is to live that out, to carry it out in action, to be able to, if you believe there should be separation of the sexes, for example, in Judaism or in some aspects of Islam, you need to be able to function like that in all the activities you’re doing. So this law, the Equality Act, if it becomes law is going to redefine what you’re doing, anything that opens yourself up as a public accommodation, that then imposes on you these obligations to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:21:51)
And then it, at the same time, strips your recourse to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and puts the thumb on the scale in terms of your ability to cite the First Amendment by putting in the act the idea that this is a compelling state interest, any claim under this already is a compelling state interest in the least restrictive alternative.
Senator Lee: (02:22:12)
And I see my time’s expired, but just to be clear, RIFRA is not a get out of jail free card. I mean, RIFRA doesn’t give every religious institution or person a free pass. It simply forces the government could conduct a certain test, a certain standard of review, is that right?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:22:32)
Yes. And that’s an important consideration here because as Justice Gorsuch referred to in the Bostock decision, what RIFRA does is it affords the opportunity for this balancing to occur. It just simply says, “Okay. We now have to look at this more seriously. There’s a burden, but is there a compelling justification?” The Equality Act takes that conversation, that delicate balancing, right off the table and says, “We’ve already decided that this is just unacceptable conduct.” So it flies in the face of both the Bostock decision, which again, referenced the importance of RIFRA as sort of a super statute, and really ties the hands of religious believers and says, “You’re not welcome to live your faith in the public square.”
Senator Lee: (02:23:20)
Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman: (02:23:22)
Thank you. Senator Lee, and Senator Booker by remote. Senator Booker, do you read me?
Mr. Chairman: (02:23:48)
We’re going to go to Senator Padilla.
Senator Padilla: (02:23:56)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Colleagues, a recent Gallup poll found that support for LGBTQ rights has surged since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, even with this record support by the American people, members of the LGBTQ community continue to face unnecessary barriers and obstacles. Our country is currently dealing with the combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a fight for equity and justice across the board.
Senator Padilla: (02:24:32)
Often ignored, LGBTQ individuals who also come from minority communities face the unique challenges of combating multiple forms of discrimination at once. So I have a question for Dr. Guffy. In your written testimony, you mentioned that your child, Bryan, lived a conflictual reality as a youth. Could you discuss any unique challenges Bryan has faced being both black and gay? That’s my first question.
Edith Guffey: (02:25:12)
Thank you for that question. I think anyone that has that multiple identity deals with the intersection of them. It’s like a layered effect. And so you can never separate them. You deal with them all the time. And so it’s like a double… I don’t want to say burden. It’s like a double discrimination. And so while some folks may say, “We have come to a place where we understand and are dealing with issues of race, but the trans thing, we can’t accept that.”
Edith Guffey: (02:26:09)
And like Mr. David said, he can walk in and have some rights as a black person, but as maybe a gay person or a trans person, that’s a totally different story. And so there’s still in place that conflict of what rights do you have when. And so I think that’s what I would say, still having to deal with both realities and two conflicting rights, still not equal, still discrimination in this country. And the Equality Act would be another step forward, an important step forward for this country and for Bryan.
Senator Padilla: (02:27:15)
Thank you. Doctor, I have another question for you as well, this one on the topic of freedom of religion, and it’s something that you touched on in your opening statement as well. Colleagues, freedom of religion is one of our nation’s most sacred and fundamental values. In 1993, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed with bipartisan support and it was intended to limit the federal government’s ability to substantially burden people’s exercise of religion.
Senator Padilla: (02:27:49)
However, the act’s scope has been expanded over time, and the law has been weaponized to weaken non-discrimination protections. Though the opponents of the Equality Act falsely claim otherwise, the Equality Act will not repeal nor will it undermine the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It actually expands protections against the discrimination toward religious and racial minorities. Additionally, the bill has a support of over a hundred religious groups across the country.
Senator Padilla: (02:28:24)
So Doctor, in your written testimony, you described how religion was used as a justification for the institution of slavery in our nation’s history. Slavery, of course, sent the firm message that black people were undeserving of rights and civil liberties. How does that history inform the discourse around LGBTQ discrimination today?
Edith Guffey: (02:28:53)
Well, for me, I think it’s a lesson to be learned. It’s kind of the same… It’s the same thing. It’s saying that there are certain people that don’t deserve rights and to be treated in the same way based on what we believe or what some people believe about faith and religion and God and who’s created how and who is welcome and who deserves what, when I simply don’t believe that that is how God sees us as children of God, that we are all loved. We are all created as children of God and are all to be created equally.
Edith Guffey: (02:29:57)
I’ve always been kind of amazed how we view giving rights to others means taking rights from others, as if there’s a limited amount, when extending grace to one means extending grace to all. And I believe we can learn from that history because oppression only oppresses us all, and we pay a price for that. And I believe that slavery has taught us that. And the price for what happens to people when you don’t welcome them and accept them as who they are, the internal price that they pay and the price that we pay as society, is simply too great.
Edith Guffey: (02:30:51)
And the demeaning of people, eventually, we pay for that, and not letting them and allowing them and affirming them in their fullness of their creation by God, and using the church and using religion to justify that, that’s not religious freedom. That’s using religion in a way that it’s never been intended to be used. At least, that’s what I believe. And I believe that is true for all of the other faith communities that support the Equality Act. They do not see religion as a reason to be weaponized, to be used against people. And that’s why they support it, as I do.
Mr. Chairman: (02:31:33)
Thank you very much Senator.
Senator Padilla: (02:31:35)
Thank you for that helpful testimony. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chairman: (02:31:37)
Thanks Senator Padilla. We’ll do Senator Holley on the Republican side, and then after a Democrat, Senator Graham.
Senator Lankford: (02:31:44)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thanks to all the witnesses for being here. Ms. Schrier, thank you for being here, and I want to start with you. You have written at some length about the effect of this act or the potential for this act to affect girls opportunities in sports, women’s sports from young ages when they are girls all the way up to when they’re women competing at the Olympic level.
Senator Lankford: (02:32:07)
And you interviewed recently, Olympic track and field coach Linda Blade, and you asked her what this would mean for girls and women’s sports. And I’m quoting now from your piece on this, “Finished. Done,” is what Linda Blade said. “The leadership skills, all the benefits society gets from letting girls have their protected categories so the competition can be fair, all the advances of women’s rights, that’s going to be diminished.” End quote. Tell us about that. Why is it that women’s sports, women’s opportunities in athletics, the opportunities of young girls to compete on a fair and equal basis will be so severely impacted by this law?
Abigail Shrier: (02:32:45)
Sure. So thank you Senator. So for instance, the great American, Allyson Felix, great American sprinter, ran the 400 meter in 49.26 seconds. And in 2018, nearly 300 high school boys could beat her. So what that means is America would never know the name Allyson Felix. All those girls who look up to her, the majority of American female CEOs who believe that their athletic experience gave them the strength and encouragement and the standard of excellence that they brought into their later life, that began in athletics. They would never have that.
Abigail Shrier: (02:33:24)
We can go across sports. Venus and Serena Williams in their prime, and I believe it was 1998, challenged anyone outside the top 200 male tennis players to a game and number 2 0 3 in the world on the man beat them handily both, six to one and six to two, the other. So we would never know the names Venus and Serena Williams. And then of course, none of the girls below them either.
Senator Lankford: (02:33:52)
You say it in some of your recent writing on this, that parents of teenage girls are generally uninterested in watching their daughters demoralized by the blatant unfairness of a rigged competition. I imagined that that reflects the views of many parents, but rigged is a strong word. Why is it rigged? Why would the competition be rigged for young girls because of these changes?
Abigail Shrier: (02:34:17)
Because the biological changes that occur in male puberty are vast. You’re talking about vastly greater upper body strength, lower body strength, far more fast twitch muscle fiber, larger lungs, larger hearts, more oxygenated blood, all things that give them a massive and permanent advantage in strength and speed.
Senator Lankford: (02:34:40)
Let me give you an opportunity to respond to the argument made by advocates of this law, and I think by some of the witnesses here today. Mr. David I think said it just a few minutes ago that the Equality Act would not create a new reality for women’s sports, that there would be no significant changes, that things would remain essentially as they are. I mean, what’s your take on that? If he’s wrong, why is he wrong?
Abigail Shrier: (02:35:02)
My take is that all the questions seem to suppose that girls can take it. They can give up a few trophies. Come on, they can handle the risk, except that it is only one group that’s asked to bear this risk. It is always women and girls. No boys will suffer because biological girls enter their sports, but girls will lose material opportunities.
Senator Lankford: (02:35:25)
So in other words, the risk and the harm you’re saying falls disproportionately on women, and maybe in particular, disproportionately on younger girls who are just entering sports, who are trying to get, as you said, that experience, trying to get those leadership opportunities. They’re the ones who would be disproportionately harmed. That’s what you’re saying.
Abigail Shrier: (02:35:43)
Yes, that’s correct.
Senator Lankford: (02:35:45)
Ms. Hasson, just in the few minutes that I have remaining, let me ask you about the effects of this law for religious institutions, which some of my colleagues have pointed out. Now, I was interested to hear a colleague of mine on the Democrat side say just a moment ago that this law no changes to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and in fact has no effect on RIFRA, does not repeal RIFRA and is not a carve out. Now, maybe I can’t read the text, but my understanding is there is an explicit carve out in the Equality Act for RIFRA.
Senator Lankford: (02:36:15)
In other words, RIFRA explicitly does not apply any laws under the Equality Act to any of the behavior, any of the regulations, anything covered by the act. I’m aware of no other law that seeks to shred RIFRA in this way. And the effect of it basically is is that churches, religious ministries, Christian colleges and universities, they’ll be unable to pursue their missions, particularly if they involve service to the poor, service to the needy. I mean, tell us about the significance of what this bill does when it comes to completely upending decades of religious liberty protections for religious organizations of all kinds.
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:36:57)
Well, I think there was a little bit of, I don’t know… The language used that this does not change RIFRA, well, it’s true. It’s not amending RIFRA, but what it’s doing is, is saying you can’t use it. You can’t have recourse to it. So the Equality Act specifically in the text of the law expressly abrogates the use of RIFRA with regard not just to title seven, but title two, title six, the entire chapter of federal law. And so this has huge ramifications. So it’s, I don’t know, disingenuous or something to say, “Well, it’s not changing RIFRA.” It’s just taking it out of reach and saying, “You cannot use it to anything where this law is being applied for-”
Senator Lankford: (02:37:44)
I just want to end, Mr. Chairman, by just noting that Reverend Matthew Harrison, the president of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Senate based in my state, that’s a denomination with 2 million members, has written that this bill puts an ultimatum to individuals, religious nonprofits, food banks, schools, charities, adoption agencies, and others, “Change your faith-based practices or face government punishment.” And I’ve heard the same from leaders of the Missouri Baptist convention and other denominations across my state. This is a radical attack on religious freedom. And I think it’s something that we’ve got to be clear about. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman: (02:38:21)
Thank you Mr. Holley. Mr. Graham, I apologize. I said you were next. I’ve just been informed that Senator Booker is joining us virtually.
Tom Cotton: (02:38:27)
Mr. Chairman: (02:38:28)
So he’s next in the sequence, and you’re after Mr. Booker. Mr. Booker, are you there?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:38:34)
Okay. I thought I was next.
Senator Booker: (02:38:37)
So using religion as a shield is something that’s been done for many years, a shield for discrimination. I believe in freedom of religion. I believe in free exercise. And I believe in the fundamentals that our country was founded upon, but I also know that for too long, religion as used to discriminate has been a painful part of the story of America. And I really want to turn the panelists to help me to spell this out. We still live in a nation, and I would think we would join together as a Senate in a bipartisan fashion to say it is wrong to deny somebody the ability to serve on a jury just because they are LGBTQ, that it is wrong to deny someone a seat at a lunch counter just because they are LGBTQ or Q. This is something that we should be all working to end.
Senator Booker: (02:39:42)
We have seen this phenomenon of religion being used to justify slavery, segregation, bans on interracial marriage. In fact, as recently as 1983, Bob Jones University argued before the Supreme court that its racially discriminatory marriage and dating policies were protected by the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment. We know this history. Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy said that slavery was established by decree of the Almighty God and sanctioned in the Bible in both the testaments, from Genesis to Revelation. Even after slavery was abolished, we heard it again, these religious freedom arguments.
Senator Booker: (02:40:25)
Theodore Bilbo, a two time governor of Mississippi who helped filibuster anti-lynching legislation used religion to justify racism and discrimination. He wrote that allowing the blood of races to mix was an attack on the divine plan of God. A century ago, Governor Allen Kendler of Georgia said, “God made them Negroes and we cannot by education, make them white folks,” in defense of segregated schools. In 1960, Mississippi governor Ross Barnett proclaimed that the Good Lord was the original segregationist. In 1963, President Harry Truman, when asked whether he believed that integration would eventually lead to interracial marriage responded by saying, “I hope not. I don’t believe in it. The Lord created it that way. You read your Bible and you’ll find out.”
Senator Booker: (02:41:18)
I do not understand that in this nation that believes and in our faith traditions that believe that literally in our founding documents, all people are created equal, that we still have a nation that tolerates, with the majority of our States, overt discrimination, no recourse whatsoever, to be denied a seat at a lunch counter, to be denied public accommodation, to be denied service on a jury. And so Mr. David, there’s a lot of vectors I hear of attacks on this legislation. Could you reiterate for me why this is so important that we don’t mistake the valued and vaunted principle of religious freedom, that I believe fully in, to be in any way, a disguise for overt discrimination against the equality of all Americans?
Alfonzo David: (02:42:21)
Thank you Senator, for that question. This legislation is important for reasons that we’ve now addressed a few times. This is about Tonya and Rachel in Colorado, looking for a new home for their new family. They find a perfect home. And after touring that perfect home, the landlord emails them, saying that they could not rent the unit to them because the couple has a quote, “unique relationship.”
Alfonzo David: (02:42:50)
This is about one of our clients, Tanya Walker, who has cancer and is transgender and is going to medical providers for help and assistance, only to face discrimination and fear as a result of her transgender status. That’s what this legislation is about. And the Equality Act does not create any new obligations or change how houses of worship define their own religious beliefs, how they’re organized, or how they determine membership. They can continue to serve their congregation and limit who attends when they’re providing worship, fellowship, or religious studies.
Alfonzo David: (02:43:28)
But to your point, we’ve known for years that the religious belief does not excuse restaurants or hotels from following our civil rights laws that were passed in the 1960s. And they still can’t deny civil rights for Black and Brown people in this country, but they can for LGBTQ people. So we have to think about how religion has been used historically to oppress marginalized communities, as you said, from colonization to slavery to interracial relationships, to now, LGBTQ families. And we have to make sure that if we are going to advance our democracy in a way that works for all of us, we need to make sure that all of us are indeed protected.
Senator Booker: (02:44:12)
Thank you. I’ll yield back. I just want to say for the record, Stella, you are amazing. You are a light in this world. I thank God for you and I celebrate and cherish your leadership. I look forward, potentially, for you and I one day being colleagues here in the United States Senate.
Mr. Chairman: (02:44:28)
Thank you. Mr. Graham.
Tom Cotton: (02:44:30)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to pick up where Mr. David sort of left off. Let’s start with Ms. Hanson. Under this legislation, would it be possible for the Catholic Church to be sued because it limits the priesthood only to men?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:44:51)
Conceivably, because if you’re defining it… Can you hear me?
Tom Cotton: (02:44:56)
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:44:56)
Am I coming through? Okay. Once you open up, as the Equality Act does, you redefine what is a public accommodation, and then anything that the church is doing that is opened up to the public, you are going to have discrimination claims brought if there’s an [crosstalk 02:45:13]-
Tom Cotton: (02:45:13)
So if you rented… If you had a worship hall and you rented it to the public, would that be enough?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:45:19)
Absolutely. Absolutely. And-
Tom Cotton: (02:45:21)
Okay. Okay, that’s fine. Now Orthodox, some Orthodox seminaries in the Jewish faith, Orthodox seminaries, I think men and women worship separately when it comes to the service. Could that be affected?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:45:41)
Sure. What this does is it broadens the scope of public accommodation, so that churches, houses of worship, their social service activities, all the places where religious people carry out their faith are all of a sudden going to be a thrust under the rubrics of this act, which means they’re going to be subject to endless litigation. And that’s a problem. That’s a problem because the act also then specifically says-
Tom Cotton: (02:46:11)
So if you’re a Catholic association and you participate in a sports league that’s public, you have a team from your church, would that trigger a lawsuit?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:46:29)
Sure. And in fact, that’s already problematic because many Catholic schools, like other faith-based schools, want to have single sex sports. They want to respect the privacy. And so they’re running into problems when they’re expected to adhere to this gender identity ideology, instead of being [crosstalk 02:46:50]-
Tom Cotton: (02:46:52)
How would this affect, say, an all-girls Catholic school that participates in a sporting league?
Mary Rice Hasson: (02:47:00)
They’re going to be subject to a lawsuit because what’s happening here, Senator, is that this is an attempt to compel religious organizations if they’re going to be in the public square and religious people to change their beliefs-
Tom Cotton: (02:47:13)
Okay, that’s fine. I got it. I got it. I got it. Mr. David, what would you say to the question, does this legislation open up the Catholic Church to lawsuits based on the fact that they do not allow women to be a priest in any fashion?
Alfonzo David: (02:47:35)
I would say in response to that question, Senator, that we have a very, very old amendment called the First Amendment and that amendment protects religious institutions from being preferred or discriminated against in statute. This is not new. We know that the-
Tom Cotton: (02:47:51)
There’s nothing in the First Amendment that says that. No, it doesn’t. It says that every person will be allowed free exercise of their religion, yeah? Free exercise clause. And it says the government won’t establish. It doesn’t say anything about whether or not the government can say that if a religious institution participates in a sporting league, all of a sudden they’re protected, no matter what.
Alfonzo David: (02:48:16)
Senator, I understand the question, but I don’t think we need to speculate. We have States that have had these laws on the books since the 1970s, and we’re not seeing these problems. So I understand the suggestion, but it’s just not true.
Tom Cotton: (02:48:29)
Would you be willing to make it clear in this law?
Alfonzo David: (02:48:33)
We are more than willing to engage with any of the senators to talk about this law and whether or not clarification is needed. I don’t know that we need clarification on this issue, but certainly, I’m more than happy to engage further to discuss this with you and others.
Tom Cotton: (02:48:48)
Okay. So when it comes to sporting events, let’s say you have a religious organization participating in secular sporting events, is that enough to require that religious organization to accept a boy playing girls’ sports?
Alfonzo David: (02:49:15)
This law does not change how religious institutions function, only if those religious institutions open up its places of public accommodation. So as an example, if a church or synagogue or mosque decided to open up a restaurant, we all know that that restaurant couldn’t deny services to someone of a different faith.
Tom Cotton: (02:49:35)
Alfonzo David: (02:49:36)
That’s what this law would do. It’s simply reasserts existing law. It does not change the law for religious institutions.
Tom Cotton: (02:49:44)
So If you, and I’ll be very quick, Mr. Chairman, if you, as a religious institution participated in secular activities, whether it be renting out a facility that you own or having a sporting association, or maybe having a…
Senator Graham: (02:50:03)
…having a sporting association or maybe having a school? What would happen to you?
Alfonzo David: (02:50:08)
Engaging in secular activities in and of itself does not make you a place of public accommodation. What makes you a place of public accommodation is whether or not you’re open to the public. Whether or not you’re providing goods and services to the public. If you decided to engage in secular activities, but limit those secular activities to those of your faith, without opening to the public, that is very different. And that’s existing law.
Senator Graham: (02:50:33)
Chairman Durbin: (02:50:36)
Senator Klobuchar: (02:50:38)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you to our witnesses. It wasn’t long ago that a person could be prosecuted for being gay. It wasn’t long ago that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was the law of the land and it wasn’t long ago that states were permitted to deny LGBTQ couples the right to marry. We have made great progress, miles of progress, but we still have miles to go as this hearing has pointed out. My first question of have you, Mister David, I first want to thank you for mentioning Minnesota Civil Rights Act. We’ve been ahead of the curve when it came to these issues for a long, long time.
Senator Klobuchar: (02:51:21)
And I think it’s been a good thing because we’ve been able to have one of the most thriving economies in terms of recruiting people to work at companies. We have one of the highest per capita numbers for fortune 500 companies. And I think it’s been incredibly a good thing that we have so many citizens in our state, and I was listening to some of the other questions, specifically Senator Cotton’s question, so many people of faith that support equality under the law. So I just want to ask you a series of questions, Mister David. Are there still places in the United States where a LGBTQ person can be denied a home simply because of who they are?
Alfonzo David: (02:52:05)
Senator Klobuchar: (02:52:07)
Are there still places where an LGBTQ person can be denied a loan simply because of who they are?
Alfonzo David: (02:52:14)
Yes. There are. There are areas where there are no state laws that would protect LGBTQ people.
Senator Klobuchar: (02:52:21)
And are there still places in the US where an LGBTQ person can be denied access to healthcare because of who they are?
Alfonzo David: (02:52:29)
Yes. There are areas where there is no state law that would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in healthcare.
Senator Klobuchar: (02:52:37)
And how have gaps in federal protections contributed to systemic inequalities experienced by members of the community?
Alfonzo David: (02:52:46)
So we have areas that are not protected by federal law. For example, jury service. If I, as a gay man, tried to serve on the jury, I could be dismissed from the jury because of my sexual orientation and I would no protections under federal law. The same if I were to get into a transportation hub, Uber or Lyft, and travel in a state that does not have protections. I would have no recourse if I was thrown out of that taxi. If I was thrown out of that car, I would have no recourse. If I went into a store to purchase a new pair of jeans or a new shirt and I faced discrimination as an LGBTQ person, I would have no recourse under federal law. These instances, unfortunately are real for LGBTQ people. Two thirds of LGBTQ people face discrimination in this country.
Senator Klobuchar: (02:53:36)
The business coalition for the Equality Act is a group of 388 leading US employers, which includes companies like 3M and General Mills, I thought I’d lead with hometown companies, as well as Delta, Nike, and Target, another Minnesota company. The coalition has a combined $6.4 trillion in revenue and employs over 13.5 million people in the United States. What is driving this level of support among our largest businesses?
Alfonzo David: (02:54:14)
Our largest businesses understand that diversity, inclusion, and fairness actually effect the bottom line. They understand that for their employees to thrive, they need to be protected. How can your employees actually thrive when they worry about walking home at night because they don’t have protections under state law? How can your employees thrive when they may not have the protections to get the resources and the services they need? Those employers understand that diversity, inclusion, and fairness, and Equality Actually effects the bottom line. And if they have those protections, if those employees are able to live freely and be who they are, they can thrive. And that benefits the bottom line for all of those companies.
Senator Klobuchar: (02:55:00)
Last question, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the LGBTQ community, especially LGBTQ people of color. While LGBTQ people overall are 30% more likely to have lost our jobs since the pandemic started, Black and Latino people who identify as LGBTQ are 70% more likely to have lost their jobs. Why is this? And could you just speak and by speaking to the impact on the community and how the Equality Act could help mitigate these problems?
Alfonzo David: (02:55:39)
Absolutely. So we have all been affected by COVID-19. All of us. Some of us have lost ones. Others have gotten ill or we know family members who have gotten ill. But there’s also a second reality that is an economic reality that some of us have lost our jobs, some of us have taken two jobs in order to protect our families because of reduced wages. And if you’re LGBTQ and you’re a person of color, COVID-19 hits you disproportionately high. And if you happen to be a transgender person, your unemployment rate is almost three times that of the general population. So as we think about the Equality Act and why it’s important, we need to make sure that all of us have an equal opportunity to contribute and thrive. And without these protections, what we’re seeing now is unfortunately going to get worse because LGBTQ people and people of color, as we all know, face the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Klobuchar: (02:56:39)
Very good. Thank you very much. And thanks to all the witnesses [crosstalk 02:56:43] ask a few questions on the record. Thank you.
Chairman Durbin: (02:56:45)
Thank you very much, Senator. Senator Cruz.
Senator Cruz: (02:56:49)
Thank you, Mister Chairman. Today’s Democratic party has gotten steadily more and more radical. They ask Americans to see ourselves as victims. But in today’s Democratic party, there is a hierarchy of victims and some victims trump other victims. This bill reflects the radical Democrat’s war on women. The Democrats have made the decision that women are not high enough on the hierarchy of victims and so this bill would in effect repeal Title IX, which created an incredible revolution of girls sports and women’s sports in colleges and universities and in high schools and junior highs throughout this country. And it would repeal much of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Senator Cruz: (02:57:48)
This bill is not a discrimination bill. The Democrats, when they’re talking about this bill, want to frame it as a discrimination bill. They don’t want to own the radical aspects of this bill. It is none of government’s business what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms. It is none of government’s business the sexual orientation or gender identity of adults in their own lives. But this bill is not about that. This bill is about mandating that biological males should be allowed to compete in girls’ sports and women’s sports effectively repealing Title IX. This bill is about suing pastors and churches if they teach biblical teachings on sexuality and morality. This bill is about suing you, an individual citizen, if you dare speak and disagree with their mandated orthodoxy. This bill is about power and this bill is dangerous.
Senator Cruz: (02:59:04)
You know, it is striking and it’s revealing that when Senator Grassley asked for an additional witness to be added to this panel, Cathy Mitchell, who is the mother of a student athlete harmed by the policies of the Equality Act, the Democratic majority refused. They didn’t want the American people to hear from Kathy Mitchell, to hear about the unfairness to little girls having girls’ sports destroyed because of the radical policies of today’s Democrats.
Senator Cruz: (02:59:36)
Miss Shrier, in your judgment, what are the risks to young girls and to young women if this bill is passed?
Abigail Shrier: (02:59:47)
Well, it will end women’s sports and all those girls who dreamed of going out of the team will take a look at the risks to their health, to their body, to their safety and the incredibly long shot of ever succeeding and they won’t bother.
Senator Cruz: (03:00:01)
So Miss Shrier, tell this committee and tell America how it will end women’s sports. As I said that, my friend, Chairman Durbin glared over and disagreed and no doubt viewed that as part of some hyperbole. So let me ask you as an expert, why would this bill in women’s sports?
Abigail Shrier: (03:00:23)
Well take the sport of dead lifting, Olympic dead lifting. So the record for the male in deadlifting is about 1100 pounds he can lift. The record for the female, this is the best female dead lifter in the world, the greatest record is around 600 pounds. So you see how many athletes you’re eliminating. It means that the fastest girl runner never makes it to the Olympics. She never makes it to the team. In the state of Connecticut, 13 out of 14 championships of titles in 2019 were taken by just two high school boys, biological boys.
Senator Cruz: (03:01:01)
So pause and reflect. That status is amazing. You just told this committee, in Connecticut, 13 out of 14 titles in girls sports and track were taken by two biological boys, which means biological girls, their sports are eliminated.
Abigail Shrier: (03:01:16)
Yes. And those biological boys who had competed in the past on boy’s teams had no standout achievements on the boy’s teams.
Senator Cruz: (03:01:22)
You know, I have to say, as the father of two young girls, that girls’ sports has had a profound impact in their lives. Our youngest girl, Catherine, plays softball. Every Sunday I’m out on the softball field with her at practice and the discipline, the teamwork, the comradery, the competitiveness that girls’ sports teaches is effectively destroyed from this bill.
Senator Cruz: (03:01:48)
Miss Hasson, let me ask you, what are the consequences for pastors and churches and individuals expressing either free speech or religious liberty if this radical bill becomes law?
Mary Rice Hasson: (03:02:01)
One of the problems is that under the Equality Act, it sends the message that to affirm biological reality, the difference between males and females, that that’s bigotry, that that’s discrimination. And there are many religious congregations that hold that as a matter of faith. So here we are that that’s going to be now redefined as something that to hold that belief [crosstalk 03:02:27].
Senator Cruz: (03:02:27)
So Miss Hasson, you’re saying if I say, boys are different from girls that I could be sued in the private workplace, just as an individual citizen?
Mary Rice Hasson: (03:02:35)
I think we’re opening up that risk. And I think we’re going to see harassment lawsuits as well because there’s a chilling effect. If the whole idea here is to affirm that biological sex doesn’t matter, that all that matters is self perception, then we’re going to see that coming out as a sword. And religious people, people who hold that in good faith, are going to be the ones who are going to suffer the consequences.
Senator Cruz: (03:03:02)
Chairman Durbin: (03:03:05)
Go ahead and finish your reply.
Mary Rice Hasson: (03:03:08)
The other comment I was going to say is that for religious organizations, we’ve heard so much about the effect of the pandemic and it mystifies me why we would want to disincentivize religious organizations from serving. Why we would want to make it more difficult for them to remain true to their beliefs and to serve the marginalized and vulnerable as religious organizations do so well for our country.
Chairman Durbin: (03:03:34)
Thank you very much. Senator Tillis?
Senator Padilla: (03:03:38)
Mister Chair, I think Senator Kennedy’s ahead of me.
Chairman Durbin: (03:03:41)
Senator Padilla: (03:03:42)
Chairman Durbin: (03:03:45)
Senator Kennedy: (03:03:45)
That Senator Tillis, you’re a good man. Thank you, Mister Chairman. Miss Shrier, I think gender dysphoria exists, it’s real, based on everything I’ve read. DSM5, NIH, other medical authorities. It’s pretty rare about [inaudible 03:04:19] require schools to open up a junior high school women’s locker room to a boy who identifies as a girl.
Abigail Shrier: (03:04:35)
Yes, it would.
Senator Kennedy: (03:04:37)
Would this bill prohibit… And they would dress together? Would it prohibit them from dressing together?
Abigail Shrier: (03:04:48)
Senator Kennedy: (03:04:50)
Would this bill prohibit the boy with gender dysphoria from exposing his penis to the girls?
Abigail Shrier: (03:05:01)
I’m sorry. Would it prohibit that?
Senator Kennedy: (03:05:04)
Abigail Shrier: (03:05:05)
Senator Kennedy: (03:05:06)
Would this bill prohibit the girls from exposing their genitalia to the boy who identifies as a girl?
Abigail Shrier: (03:05:16)
I don’t believe the bill addresses genitalia.
Senator Kennedy: (03:05:22)
Well does it prohibit them from dressing together?
Abigail Shrier: (03:05:25)
Senator Kennedy: (03:05:26)
Okay. Would this bill prohibit them from showering together?
Abigail Shrier: (03:05:30)
Senator Kennedy: (03:05:31)
Okay. Women’s sports. Would this bill require all women’s sports programs to make biological women compete against biological males with gender dysphoria?
Abigail Shrier: (03:05:48)
They wouldn’t have to have gender dysphoria. Anyone who says they’re a girl at any time under this bill, they don’t have to be transgender identified, they don’t have to have gender dysphoria.
Senator Kennedy: (03:05:57)
I’m getting there. Okay? May I ask you again, would this bill require women’s sports programs to make women compete against men who have gender dysphoria? Who identify as a woman?
Abigail Shrier: (03:06:14)
Yes. Anyone who identifies as a woman.
Senator Kennedy: (03:06:17)
Okay. Would the man who identifies as a woman be required to take chemicals to block his masculinity?
Abigail Shrier: (03:06:28)
Senator Kennedy: (03:06:30)
So he could just show up and say, “I want to compete. I’m trans, I’m a male, but I identify as a female.”
Abigail Shrier: (03:06:39)
Yes, that’s correct.
Senator Kennedy: (03:06:41)
And who determines who’s transgender in a situation like that?
Abigail Shrier: (03:06:45)
It’s self identification. So effectively, if he says he’s a woman, he’s a woman.
Senator Kennedy: (03:06:51)
Okay. If I’m a parent of a transgender child and I decline to have my child, a minor, take sex changing hormones or chemicals or undergo sex change surgery, how would this bill impact my rights as a parent?
Abigail Shrier: (03:07:28)
I don’t know how it necessarily will, but it would seem that it will make it harder for parents to exercise their own judgment whenever a child says they have gender dysphoria. I think that there will be more danger of coming under pressure and the possibility of losing custody.
Senator Kennedy: (03:07:53)
Okay. Mister David, let me ask you a question. How many sexes do you think there are?
Alfonzo David: (03:07:57)
How many sexes?
Senator Kennedy: (03:08:03)
Alfonzo David: (03:08:06)
[crosstalk 03:08:06] Well, there’s a difference between sex and gender identity if that’s what you’re getting at.
Senator Kennedy: (03:08:09)
No, I’m asking biological sexes. How many do you think there are?
Alfonzo David: (03:08:14)
Well, I would defer to the medical practitioners. But I think there’s been studies showing that if you’re talking about sex, sex is defined by many different characteristics including chromosomes [crosstalk 03:08:25].
Senator Kennedy: (03:08:24)
Are there more than two?
Alfonzo David: (03:08:25)
You could make that argument that there might be more than two [crosstalk 03:08:28].
Senator Kennedy: (03:08:27)
Are you making that argument [crosstalk 03:08:35]?
Alfonzo David: (03:08:36)
Senator, I can’t ignore the fact that there are individuals who are intersex. And so it’s not binary.
Senator Kennedy: (03:08:43)
I’m running out of time. Are there more than two sexes in your opinion?
Alfonzo David: (03:08:47)
It’s not limited to two.
Senator Kennedy: (03:08:49)
Okay. That’s all I’ve got Mister Chairman.
Chairman Durbin: (03:08:53)
Senator Padilla: (03:08:56)
Thank you, Mister Chairman. I had to move up here to get a seat. I was a member without a seat awhile. Earlier, I moved down in the order after we reconstituted this Congress. Sorry for the confusion.
Chairman Durbin: (03:09:07)
Honesty is rewarded. You’re the last Senator to ask.
Senator Padilla: (03:09:13)
First I want to thank you for having this hearing. I think it’s a very important and very sensitive issue, and I also respect the way that the majority of the members have asked, I think, important questions, respectful on both sides of the aisle. On the one hand, we have the fact that even in 2021, our LGBTQ friends, family, neighbors, still face discrimination from employment to healthcare, to housing, to homelessness among LGBTQ youth, there’s a very real problem with discrimination. I think it’s wrong in any aspect.
Senator Padilla: (03:09:51)
But on the other hand, we have millions of Americans who are people of faith who have serious and legitimate issues of conscience. These Americans practice their faith daily. They love their God, their church, and their community, and they strive to live biblical values. People of faith contribute so much and we’ve seen so many stories even during the pandemic about the very important role that they play.
Senator Padilla: (03:10:16)
In our constitution, Bill of Rights does protect liberties and if anything, freedom of religion and free exercise of our faith is the most important and most sacred Constitutional right. It’s literally the reason why our nation was founded. The challenge for us as legislators is to figure out how we reconcile the desperate, and in some cases, competing interests. Unfortunately, I believe the Equality Act falls short of the goal. We’ve heard many of the reasons today. It would deny the religious liberty and freedom of millions of Americans by forcing churches, religious goals, and adoption agencies to violate their sincerely and deeply held religious beliefs. That’s something I can’t support and it’s something I’d never support. But I am open to finding a compromise on this issue.
Senator Padilla: (03:11:08)
I want to find a compromise. One that prevents discrimination against anybody in the LGBTQ community, any American. But I also want to protect Americans of faith. So Chairman Durbin, and I will ask Senator Grassley the same thing, I hope that we can work together and make progress because there’s a real challenge here. But I feel like even in this hearing, although the questions were insightful, sometimes we were talking past one another. I think that Miss Hasson’s pointed out, she may have used the word disingenuous, I think that was an appropriate word. When you see RFRA being set aside in the Equality Act, it’s a fact. I’m not an attorney, but I am literate. And if you read the plain text of the bill, you know that’s what it has the consequence.
Senator Padilla: (03:11:56)
But Miss Shrier, first I want to compliment you for being the only person who’s had to be seated for the entire three hours and 15 minutes. That shows a lot of endurance on your part. And you’ve given a lot of insightful answers. I coached youth sports for nearly 10 years when my daughter and my son were growing up. T-ball, soccer, baseball, softball. And I coached these children from the time that they were about four years old until the time they were about 14 years old. Some of these kids that played on the teams, when you had boys and girls on the same team, they were competitive when they were up to maybe eight, 10, 11, 12 years old. But boys, a winter goes by and those boys get on the field, and thank goodness that we had the alternative for female and male softball and little league baseball in my case.
Senator Padilla: (03:12:47)
You made a comment that I wanted to go back to. Two things, and in my time, I know that the time has been long. Number one, I’d like to get an idea of what that nuanced solution looks like. And I think you were probably alluding to the vast change that occurs after puberty. But I also want to go back and have you restate something that I think is a real, people will exploit the plain letter of this bill. You made a comment about prisoners who chose to identify, male prisoners who chose to identify as female prisoners. I’d like for you to go back and recount that because that’s a real risk that prisoners will exploit, but I think people in general society will. So if you can, and I want to ask you another question, talk a little bit about what that nuance solution would look like. What we should bring before this committee and try and find and make progress. But then also talk about that real risks should people choose to exploited if this bill became law.
Abigail Shrier: (03:13:46)
Right. So the threat is not about transgender Americans at all who are not a violent population. But the problem with this bill is that it doesn’t require anything for someone who claims to have a female identity. All they need to do is announce they are female. And of course there are a lot of biological men who are a real threat to women’s safety.
Senator Padilla: (03:14:09)
So a serial rapist who’s in prison could choose to identify as a female and then would be entitled under this law to be transferred to a female population prison?
Abigail Shrier: (03:14:19)
Senator Padilla: (03:14:20)
Could they be treated any differently based on the elements of their crime? Or would they be in the general population if they’re found in the general population in the men’s prison?
Abigail Shrier: (03:14:30)
Well, in theory they could. Certainly under the Equality Act, it makes no distinction. Anyone who says they are a female would be automatically entitled to transfer.
Senator Padilla: (03:14:38)
I think there’s a long list of abuses that we need to work out to get a reasonable outcome. But tell me, just in a few seconds, what that nuanced solution may be, particularly in the area of youth sports or women’s sports, men’s sports.
Abigail Shrier: (03:14:52)
Sure. One solution was to keep girls’ sports for biological girls and then create an open category for anyone who chooses. Or it’s to force the boys teams to get more accommodating and welcoming to those with male bodies who identify as transgender. There are a number of options. The problem with the Equality Act is it wouldn’t allow any of them.
Senator Padilla: (03:15:13)
Yeah. And Mister Chairman, I’m afraid if we don’t get this right, we could on the one hand make progress, but create polarization that would prevent future progress on this issue, which is something I’m committed to working on. Thank you, Mister Chair, and thank you for holding this committee.
Chairman Durbin: (03:15:31)
Thank you very much, Senator Tillis. And I want to just say, the tone that you set with your question and comment is one I hope the committee can follow up on. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we had a constructive, non-confrontational conversation about dealing with our mutual concerns? Not that we’re guaranteed a good result, but at least guaranteed an effort and an opportunity to do it. And I thank you for that. I hope we can do that.
Chairman Durbin: (03:16:02)
I’d like to thank you, Miss Shrier, for patiently sitting through this testimony and to our witnesses at home or wherever you’re broadcasting from, thank you as well for being part of this. I’d like to make a few closing comments if I can. First on the concept of high school sports. Yes, I was involved in high school sports, but if it was a question of testing foot speed, I would have lost to whoever ran against me, whatever their background, whatever their gender, I wasn’t that quick of foot. But I still enjoyed high school sports.
Chairman Durbin: (03:16:41)
We know that we have had laws on the books in states like California, Minnesota, Maryland, Connecticut, Florida, Washington, for years and they don’t find the problems that have been reported today. That I think has been a point made over and over again by Mister David and it bears repeating. We are waiting for this avalanche of problems and they’re predicted, but they haven’t really surfaced. And when it comes to sports, I’m going to enter a statement into the record here from organizations which back up what I’ve just said. Let me conclude this way. Hard to believe it’s been that long, but 50 years ago, fresh out of law school, I went to work for the Illinois State Senate and met a woman named Phyllis Schlafly who was leading the charge against the Equal Rights amendment. And the war cry of the day was, “They’ll get in our bathrooms. Those men are coming in our bathrooms.” And that really drove the debate for a long period of time. The Equal Rights amendment was never ratified in time by the States.
Chairman Durbin: (03:17:48)
I suppose that privacy is a very important element to everybody, as it should be. But I hope that we can learn a lesson here that some of the great fears we have, such as equality of marriage destroying the institution of marriage, Obergefell was decided six years ago, my wife and I are still married. It didn’t stop us in terms of continuing commitment, that we take a look at this in realistic terms. On the religious aspect of this, I’m going to tread very carefully and lightly just to say, I do not believe some of the things that have been suggested as the products of the Equality Act. I do believe that people who want to blatantly discriminate and use religion as their weapon have gone too far. We have to have limits on what they can do.
Chairman Durbin: (03:18:39)
I might remind us in history that the KU Klux Klan was not burning question marks. They were burning a cross. They were making some distorted connection with religion. And, God forbid, that anybody would buy that. We don’t need that in America, regardless of the time, regardless of the organization, wherever they come down on the political spectrum.
Chairman Durbin: (03:19:02)
I hope that we can come together with conversation that will lead us to a positive conclusion on this matter, because for Stella, who has been the star so far, certainly the 16 year old star of this hearing, and for all those who have testified, I want to say that we have hope. We’ve got to have hope that America, as it has broken down the barriers to race, as it broken down the barriers to women voting, broken down the barriers to those who were disabled, and broken down the barriers to sexual orientation will never stop breaking down these barriers. That is who we are as America. That is what has defined us. And I will be working to try to make the Equality Act a vehicle toward that goal. Thank you very much. Meaning stands adjourned.