Nearly 100 years ago, suffragists gathered together in the Nashville Hermitage Hotel to fight for the right to vote. These women weren't just activists. They were mothers, wives, and sisters bonded by one common goal—equality. Their efforts pushed Tennessee to be the 36th and final state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment.
While the conversation of equality continued after earning the right to vote, that debate bears little resemblance to the rhetoric we hear today. The current debate favors mandatory, sweeping societal change far from the equal rights these Nashville suffragists established. H.R.5, the Equality Act, proposed by House Democrats is a prime example.
The Equality Act resembles a distorted version of forced equity. Rather than establishing equal rights, it instead insists female athletes compete against biological males, mandates religious schools and hospitals go against their moral principles to conform to an individual's "gender identity,” and lets men into domestic violence shelters, putting battered women everywhere at risk.
The societal changes mandated by the Equality Act aren't simply buzzwords; insistence on accepting "gender identity" rather than biological sex jeopardizes the safety of women and girls.
Without biological sex as a metric, men can self-identify as female, thereby entering into female dressing rooms, restrooms, domestic abuse shelters, all-girls’ locker rooms, and women's dorms without any fear of retribution. New policies would turn the safe-havens created exclusively for women and girls into a hub for abusers and traffickers.
The restrictions found in the Equality Act destroy basic rights to safety for women seeking refuge. In California, such changes have already subjected survivors experiencing trauma to continued sexual harassment and assault by men identifying as women. In other states, a rejection of biological men from women-only shelters has subjected the shelters to detailed investigation.
It it would be easy to gloss over the sweeping changes of the Equality Act because of the bill’s inconspicuous name or glowing reviews from Democrats, but we know that this bill is a larger effort to destroy women's equality in favor of forced equity. H.R.5's demands aren't "woke"—they are disturbing for anyone who cares about the safety of women.
The United States Constitution guarantees we are treated equally, which means all men and women are entitled to equal protection under the law. Still, the Equality Act goes beyond the Constitution’s provisions by promoting forced equity that destroys women's rights in favor of selective, preferential treatment.
Particularly for Women's History Month, Tennesseans must remember the suffragists who gathered in the Hermitage Hotel and their common purpose. As the Equality Act moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, I will continue to call out the dangerous changes and maintain the legacy of Tennessee suffragists who paved the way for women's equality.