The Equality Act is proposed legislation intended to build on the 1964 Civil Rights Act by extending civil rights protections to lesbians, gays, and those claiming transgender identity. It was passed by the House of Representatives on February 25th, 2021 and will likely be voted on in the Senate soon.
The Equality Act does not treat “sex,” “sexual orientation,” and “gender identity” as conceptually and analytically distinct categories. Instead, the bill places all three in the category “sex.”
What this means is that biological sex and gender identity are treated as the same, thereby negating women’s and lesbians’ sex based rights.
This imprecision is a radical departure from the norms of most legal documents, where accurate definitions are key to to interpretation and implementation of the law.
Gender identity is circularly defined in the Act as:
[T]he gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.
Gender is not defined at all. As Callie Burt points out in her excellent scholarly analysis of the Equality Act, “without an understanding of ‘gender,’ the definition of “gender identity” is not only circular, it is incomprehensible.
Read the full text of the Equality Act.
Given there is no requirement in the Act for any verification or formal change of status; anyone who identifies as the opposite sex will be treated as such. That means that any male claiming female identity may:
* Access private female spaces such as changing rooms, locker rooms, and restrooms
* Be housed in women’s prisons and shelters
* Compete in female sports
* Access provisions created for women to remedy sex- discrimination
* Declare himself to be a lesbian and treated as such
Anyone following the news knows that this has already begun, but passage of the Act will enshrine these practices in federal law, as would the recording of crimes committed by males claiming female identity as female crime. Please check out our “Issues” page for more detailed coverage.
Lawyers in two feminist organizations, the US chapter of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC USA), and Feminists in Struggle (FIST) have written revisions of the 2019 Equality Act.
While differing in some details, the alternatives define sex as a biological category, while also extending civil rights protections to lesbians, gays, and all persons who do not conform to sex stereotypes, including those claiming transgender identity.
These feminist revisions are useful resources for lobbying your legislator. Sympathetic insiders have told us that offering alternative language or text is more persuasive than simply registering opposition to a bill when meeting with congressional staffers. Click on the icons below to read and download feminist alternatives to the Equality Act.