Jennifer Pizer

Lambda Legal today (Wednesday, April 19) blasted efforts in Congress to ban trans girls and women from participating school sports while applauding the re-introduction of the Do No Harm Act.

The U.S. House of Representatives today considered HR 734, which Lambda Legal called “the Orwellian-titled” Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. Sasha Buchert, Lambda Legal senior attorney and director of the organization’s Nonbinary and Transgender Rights Project, released a written statement condemning the measure.

“HR 734 is an ignorant and despicable attempt to systematically deny transgender, nonbinary and intersex youth the opportunity to participate in school sports,” Buchert said. “The physical and psychological benefits of being able to play are well documented. Participation in athletics provides youth with opportunities to develop life-long healthy habits, leadership skills, discipline, and self-confidence. Almost all of us have experienced the pain of being excluded from play, and this legislation seeks to permanently deprive trans kids of those opportunities.”

Buchert continued, “With trans youth under cruel and sustained attack in statehouses across the country, it is unconscionable and abhorrent that members of the U.S. House of Representatives are using their positions to amplify the cruelty. We urge our elected representatives to halt this harmful bill in its tracks while we also take some comfort in knowing President Biden has promised to veto this bill should it ever arrive on his desk. Trans youth need and deserve our love and support, not the targeted discrimination and cruelty HR 734 represents.

“As the Supreme Court gets ready possibly to expand even further the ability of businesses to use religion to discriminate, the federal RFRA law absolutely needs this fix.”

On the opposite end of the LGBTQ rights spectrum, Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, both Democrats re-introduced the Do No Harm Act, with Lambda Legal calling it a “long-overdue correction to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which amends the law to clarify that it does not permit the use of religion to discriminate, impose religious beliefs, deny others specified goods or services or inflict dignitary or other harm on others.”

Lambda Legal Chief Legal Officer Jennifer C. Pizer said in a written statement, “Since long before the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement even started, our communities, women and other marginalized groups have been targeted by religion-based condemnation and restriction of equal opportunities. In recent years, too many of those who oppose the equality and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people have misused religion in their demands for exemptions from rules that should protect everyone at work, at school, in medical offices, and in social services.

“Lambda Legal has represented LGBTQ+ individuals and same-sex couples in cases involving everyday services ranging from haircuts to vacation lodging to health care even to funeral services, in which businesses have claimed religious rights to violate state nondiscrimination laws,” Pizer continued. “The broad spectrum of these religion-for-discrimination cases shows the absurd inflation and distortion of religious rights demanded by these business owners, and the breadth of potential consequences for everyone else.

“The cases represent an enormous overreach by those engaging in commercial enterprises — offering goods or services to the general public, but then singling out some people for discrimination.”

Pizer noted that Lambda Legal is currently waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis, the case in which a Colorado website designer “wants a free speech right to advertise her intent to discriminate and then to refuse service to same-sex couples.”

“As the Supreme Court gets ready possibly to expand even further the ability of businesses to shun LGBTQ+ people in the commercial marketplace, it spotlights the ongoing problem of religious divisions in public life,” Pizer said. “Misinterpretation of the federal RFRA law is a big part of that problem and why it absolutely needs this fix. Congress never intended RFRA to become, perversely, a tool for imposing religious orthodoxy and discrimination.

“The Do No Harm Act is an urgently needed course correction.”

Pizer said the bill should be “a welcome reaffirmation of the do-no-harm-to-others principle that motivated passage of RFRA in the first place back in 1993. The fast-growing movement of those misusing religion for discrimination shows the urgent need for Congress to reaffirm that principle by passing this bill.”

The Do No Harm Act would amend the 1993 RFRA law by confirming that RFRA-based rights do not justify harm to others. It identifies contexts in which the religion law cannot be used to justify violation of other federal laws that protect others, including federal anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws, child labor laws, workplace compensation laws; provisions of the Affordable Care Act; and rules governing access to goods and services paid for by federal taxpayers to assist members of the general public.