RUBIO: The Biden Admin’s Plan to Enforce Wokeness in the Workplace
John Kluge just wanted to share the joy of music, but the Church of the Woke had other plans.
In 2017, the Indiana public school at which John taught orchestra ordered its teachers to use students’ “preferred pronouns” rather than acknowledge their biological sex. John refused, because his Christian faith commanded him to “speak the truth in love.” He offered to compromise with the school by only using students’ last names, but that wasn’t good enough for Brownsburg High. The next year, John’s principal told him to resign.
This injustice is tragic — and frightening — on its own. Unfortunately, it is just a preview of things to come if the Biden administration gets its way.
At the beginning of this month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) proposed new guidance that would require virtually every employee in the United States to embrace his or her colleagues’ self-described sexuality, gender identity, and “reproductive rights.” Under this rule, anyone who does not conform to left-wing orthodoxy, as well as any employer who protects him or her, could be the target of a federal investigation and lawsuit.
“Mis-gendering” a coworker? Illegal. Denying a man who says he is a woman access to the women’s restroom? Illegal. Publicly expressing a biblical view of marriage? Illegal. Disputing an employer’s decision to offer paid leave for abortions? Illegal.
This guidance is far from liberal, at least in the original sense of the word. It certainly is not tolerant. Rather, it is an affront to common sense and an all-out assault on Americans who hold deep religious convictions about marriage, family, sex, and the human person.
It is one thing to hold progressive values. It is another to demand that everyone else agree with you. Using the federal government to mandate that agreement is two steps too far — it effectively violates the First Amendment by establishing wokeness as America’s state religion, and it guts the 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA).
Title VII of that historic law explicitly bans employment discrimination on the basis of religion. Properly understood, it prohibits what happened to John Kluge. But the Biden administration has falsely interpreted “sex,” another category protected by the CRA, to include “sexual orientation and gender identity,” and it has elevated that extremely expanded category above religion.
This is the exact opposite of what the CRA’s original advocates intended. If you had told John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr. that the bill they worked so hard to enact would eventually be used to punish Jews for believing that only women can be women, sideline Muslims for wanting to keep men out of girls’ bathrooms, or marginalize Catholics for believing that abortion is wrong, they would have been horrified.
Sadly, the Left has long since parted ways with the likes of those historic reformers. It is now up to conservatives, whose adherents still stand for reason and authentic tolerance, rather than fanaticism and bigotry — to guard their legacy.
This will require activism. Like the leaders of the civil rights movement before them, conservatives must build a consensus that demanding wokeness in the workplace is deeply wrong and profoundly un-American. This is the necessary groundwork for any lasting change.
A lot of litigation will also be required. The U.S. Supreme Court made the new EEOC guidance possible when it insanely ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County (2020) that biological sex and “sexual orientation and gender identity” are all of a piece. Conservatives must continue to bring cases to expose the real-world consequences of that false logic.
Finally, overturning the new EEOC guidance will require oversight and legislation. Congress should hold the executive branch to account when it distorts existing laws. And just as Congress passed the CRA to prohibit unjust discrimination in the 1960s, Congress can and should pass new bills to prohibit discrimination in the 2020s.
My Lifting Local Communities Act, for example, would establish legal protections for faith-based organizations. If enacted, religious groups would be free to apply for and receive federal grants without being pressured to abandon or renounce their deeply held beliefs. Six Republican senators have already cosponsored this bill. I hope more of my colleagues in Congress, including Democrats, will soon follow.
None of this will be easy, but we have no time to lose. After all, the more the Biden administration pushes wokeness on the American people — the more entrenched the EEOC’s new standards become — the more John Kluges there will be before the dust settles.
Marco Rubio is the senior United States senator from Florida.