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'Equality Act' Reignites Debate Over Religious Freedom Versus LGBTQ+ Rights

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Faith groups are deeply split over the Equality Act. Evangelicals, Catholics, Latter-day Saints and Orthodox Jews say it limits religious freedom. Mainline Protestants and other progressive faith groups support it.
Faith groups are deeply split over the Equality Act. Evangelicals, Catholics, Latter-day Saints and Orthodox Jews say it limits religious freedom. Mainline Protestants and other progressive faith groups support it.

Support for LGBTQ+ rights has increased in the decades since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but discrimination is still widespread, in large part due to concerns that more stringent federal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals would hinder religious freedom.

How far should religious liberty extend in democratic societies, especially when it conflicts with the rights of others? What are the legal and constitutional arguments in religious freedom disputes?

The “Equality Act," passed twice now by the U.S. House of Representatives, would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but has drawn heavy opposition from conservative religious groups who say the government shouldn’t be able to force them to take positions that conflict with their beliefs. The Senate has so far declined to take it up for consideration.

How should we balance religious liberty with civil rights and public health, in situations in which certain groups say the government shouldn’t be able to force positions that conflict with their religious beliefs? Are these positions irreconcilable or is there common ground to be found?

What are the legal and constitutional arguments? How has the Supreme Court ruled in high-profile cases involving religious freedom claims, and what are the implications?

Guests:

  • Jennifer Pizer, director of law and policy for LGBTQ rights organization Lambda Legal
  • Katherine Franke, professor of law, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law and faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project at Columbia University
  • Douglas Laycock, professor of law and religious studies at the University of Virginia

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, March 16.