Democrat senators compared opposing the Equality Act on religious grounds to the Ku Klux Klan burning crosses and the Confederacy’s biblical justifications for slavery.
“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,” Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin of Illinois said at Wednesday’s hearing.
“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 the organization, wherever they come down on the political spectrum.”
Democrat Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey made similar comments earlier in the hearing, claiming that those opposed to expanding access to protected spaces based on their gender identity because it would limit their abilities to practice what they believe about biological sex are similar to slaveholders who used Bible verses to justify slavery.
“Using religion as a shield is something that’s been done for many years as a shield for discrimination,” Booker stated. “I believe in freedom of religion. I believe in free exercise. I believe in the fundamentals that our country was founded upon, but I also know that for too long, religion was used to discriminate and has been a painful part of the story of America.”
Booker then recounted numerous historical instances in which he said religion was used to “justify slavery, segregation, [and] bans on interracial marriage.”
“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 Testaments from Genesis to Revelation,” Booker said, then continued:
Even after slavery was abolished, we heard again these religious freedom arguments … I do not understand that in this nation that believes 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 the majority of our states’ overt discrimination, no recourse whatsoever, to be denied a seat at the lunch counter.
Booker asked a witness to explain the importance that “we don’t mistake the valued and vaunted principle of religious freedom … as a disguise for overt discrimination against the equality of all Americans.”
Author and activist Abigail Shrier testified that the proposed legislation would not only remove protections for female spaces including housing, corrections facilities, and even sports, but it also allows biological males to exploit the bill’s provisions and hinder equality instead of reinforcing it.