Religious-right fearmongering about the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to federal civil rights laws, has been increasingly extreme around Thursday’s vote in the House of Representatives, which passed the legislation on a 224-206 vote. Today, an email from Mat Staver of the stridently anti-LGBTQ Liberty Counsel declared that if the Equality Act became law, “schools [that] refuse to hire a crossdresser, a pedophile or a goat lover” would be “penalized.”
“I know this sounds absurd—but, sadly, it’s true,” Staver added.
No, it’s not true. Staver is lying.
So where does Staver come up with this claim?
Staver’s email says that the bill “imposes LGBTQ into every corner of the school,” adding the entirely false claim that the Q in LGBTQ—standing for “queer”—means that pedophilia and other “paraphilias” like bestiality and necrophilia would become protected categories under federal law.
In fact, the Equality Act explicitly defines sexual orientation to mean “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.”
“The list will literally make you sick,” Staver wrote, claiming, “If the religious institutions refuse to change their doctrine and policies to accommodate the entire panorama of sexual deviance, they will be punished.”
Staver’s email links to a page that charges people to fax senators—from $5 to fax the Senate leadership to $59 to fax every senator. The fax message does not include Staver’s claim about schools being forced to hire pedophiles or goat lovers, but it does claim that the legislation “would effectively criminalize Christianity in America.”
Wild accusations from religious-right groups about the Equality Act criminalizing Christianity echo equally false claims that religious-right leaders made more than a decade ago when they were opposing legislation that would add sexual orientation to federal hate crimes laws. They warned that if the hate crimes legislation passed, it would be the end of religious freedom and pastors who preached against homosexuality would be dragged out of their pulpits and thrown into jail. That, of course, has not happened, and more than 11 years after former President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, religious-right leaders like Staver still have the freedom to spread lies about the LGBTQ community.
Also targeting the Equality Act is a new coalition of right-wing organizations calling themselves “Promise to America’s Children.” Among the national anti-equality groups involved in the effort are the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Policy Alliance, Concerned Women for America, the American Principles Project, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Family Research Council, Family Watch International, and Focus on the Family.