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The Equality Act passed the House, but what do local officials and experts think?

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Posted at 5:00 AM, May 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-30 10:38:42-04

On May 17, the House of Representatives passed a piece of legislature called the Equality Act, which would amend laws already in place to "prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes."

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, a majority of Americans in every state support LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. However, all local representatives voted against the legislature. Here are a few of their arguments for voting "no," and how an expert views these arguments within a legal framework.

Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH 1st District)

UNITED STATES - JUNE 13: Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Wednesday morning, June 13, 2018.
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH 1st District)

A statement obtained from Chabot acknowledges the majority of Americans support such protections, but he feels the act will cause more problems than it aims to solve.

"First of all," Chabot's statement reads, "it basically scraps the fundamental right to religious expression and liberty enshrined in the Constitution. It could also undermine the role of parents and doctors in the treatment of minor children."

Chabot also wrote he voted no in order to protect women and girls as the act would allow biological males to go into gender-specific areas, like bathrooms.

"Americans deserve better than this wrong-headed legislation."

Representative Bred Wenstrup (R-OH 2nd District)

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Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH 2nd District)

According to a statement from Wenstrup, "This bill infringes on certain personal liberties. It discriminates against people of faith by forcing them to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs." The statement also said Wenstrup fears the act might get rid of the protection to not perform medical procedures such as abortion, and there is also a concern that federal dollars would fund those medical procedures.

The Equality Act defines "sex" not only as a person's sex stereotype, but also as "pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition."

A memo from the National Right to Life Committee provided by Wenstrup's office reads, "Historically, when Congress has addressed discrimination based on sex, rules of construction have been added to prevent requiring funding of abortion or nullifying conscience laws."

Representative Warren Davidson (R-OH 8th District)

Davidson takes early lead in race for Ohio's 8th Congressional district seat
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH 8th District)

"Parental rights and women's rights are at risk with the so-called Equality Act, which attacks our freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience," a statement from Davidson reads.

When asked to elaborate on how parental rights were at risk, Davidson said, "When it comes to minor children making potentially irreversible decisions, from minor injuries to transgender surgery, parental rights in guiding such decisions should be affirmed not attacked by misguided legislation."

Davidson pointed to the 2017 case of the 16-year-old boy from Hamilton County who was born female, sought to be recognized as a male and undergo hormone replacement therapy or sex reassignment surgery.

RELATED: Transgender boy from Hamilton County wins right to transition before college

"The Equality Act," Davidson said, "would put parental rights to make decisions about their children’s medical treatment and education at risk."

Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY 4th District)

A statement from Massie also raises concerns about bathroom accessibility, similar to Chabot. "(The Equality Act) denies local communities the freedom to determine who is allowed in single-sex bathrooms and locker rooms," the statement reads.

Another concern for Massie is the potential for people "who wish to honor traditional norms regarding gender and marriage, and who refuse to cater to subjective definitions of 'gender identity,'" to face criminal and civil punishment for their views.

Laura Lington, Massie's communications director, also said, "constituents contacted our office with overwhelming opposition to the bill."

Expert analysis

To better understand the legal framework for these arguments against the Equality Act, we reached out to Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a law professor from the University of Dayton School of Law.

Hoffmeister said most of the arguments against the bill are "hyperbolic in nature." When it comes the issue of this legislature stripping parental rights, Hoffmeister said,

The odds of the state stepping in to tell a parent how to raise a transgender child are slim to none. Anyone with a somewhat rudimentary understanding of child protection services knows that they have far bigger issues to worry about like child neglect and abuse.

He goes on to say the 2017 Hamilton County case is a "one off," but the larger concern for lawmakers should be protecting the lives of transgender teens who have a high-rate of attempted suicide as shown by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

However, Hoffmeister conceded Chabot and Massie's argument about bathroom protections is a real concern, as there are people who are only comfortable in restrooms with people who share their birth anatomy.

Ultimately though, Hoffmeister said the legislation won't get much further.

"I would say that this legislation is unlikely to become law," Hoffmeister said. "Neither the senate nor the president plans to support it."

WCPO also reached out to the office of Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN 6th District) for a statement as well since he also voted "no" on the legislation but did not hear back.