Sunday, February 28, 2021

Is the Equality Act Fair?

Former male cyclist Rachel Mackinnon competing with women (BBC)
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg did a masterful job.  A while back he gave a lecture on gender dysphoria – more commonly known as transgenderism. The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) describes this disorder as follows: 

…clinically significant distress or impairment related to a strong desire to be of another gender, which may include desire to change primary and or secondary sex characteristics. 

The understanding and sympathy Rabbi Goldberg expressed for people with this disorder ought to be emulated by all of us. It is a serious problem far more common than people think. And it affects observant Jewry too. Rabbi Goldberg described how a devoutly religious 60 year old  member of his Shul approached him one day and told him he wanted to change his sex. 

He also reported that he approached a Posek recognized by every segment of Orthodoxy with this issue and was told that he gets this question about 2 or 3 times a week! The bottom line is that although it is not Halachicly permissible to change one’s sex (or even to wear clothing of the opposite sex) we must nevertheless all have sympathy for people that suffer from this disorder. Their feelings are real.  They should never be ridiculed, disparaged or in any way made to feel bad about themselves once they reveal they are transgender. Transgender people should be treated the same way anyone with any disorder - physical or mental - should be treated. 

The bottom line though is that it is indeed a mental disorder and should be recognized as such. And not treated as an alternative lifestyle. Nor should we make laws that appear to do exactly that when it violates common sense, the norms of society, and in some cases interferes with religious rights. 

This is why the Equality Act is so problematic. Which is described as follows:

The Equality Act is a bill in the United States Congress, that, if passed, would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.

The House just passed that bill. This bill goes well beyond understanding and sympathy. It is yet another example of ‘civil rights versus religious rights’ where civil rights come out on top. I don’t know what the Senate will do, but if a majority votes to pass it, it will become the law of the land. 

The question is, why not grant  people with this disorder the right to be the sex they choose to be rather than the sex they were born with? 

The differences between men and women are more than differences in genitalia. For example men generally have greater upper body strength then women. So that when it comes to competition in sporting events like swimming, men are generally able to swim a bit faster than women. This is why swimming competitions are separated by sex. Men compete against men and women against women. 

If a man changes his sex to become a woman, the Equality Act would require that he be permitted to compete with women and thereby have an unfair advantage. That is anything but equal. The Equality Act does not even require any surgical changes. All one has to do is be diagnosed as gender dysphoric and can still physically remain a man. 

This law is nothing short of being the ultimate in political correctness gone mad. There is a difference between having sympathy and understanding on the one hand - and on the other hand treating gender dysphoria as normal. There is no way that people who are physically male should be allowed to compete in women’s athletics. 

Then there is the religious issue. The Equality Act would allow people diagnosed as transgender while still being physically male to use a woman’s bathroom. How can anyone in their right mind think this is OK? How is this fair to women? I can’t imagine most woman feeling comfortable with a male using the same bathroom at the same time. 

While it might seem like the Equality Act extends civil rights to transgender people, it nonetheless takes away the rights of people who are sensitive about their modesty. Which most often applies to religious people. So in the arena of rights versus rights, this act clearly sides in favor of civil rights over religious rights. 

This is one of the things that divides liberals and conservatives. Liberals believe that religious rights should be superseded by individual civil rights when the two conflict. Conservatives believe that the constitutional protection of religious rights is sacrosanct and should always come first.  I challenge the liberal  argument that religious rights are not infringed by this civil right. The facts say otherwise.   

It is my hope therefore that if this ever becomes the law of the land, that it is challenged in the Supreme Court. Hopefully, now that we now have a conservative majority in the court they will see the inherent unfairness of this law (as pointed out in the example about sports) and more importantly see it as a violation of our religious rights protected by the constitution.