MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 27th of November, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. This Friday is the beginning of the Group of 20 Summit, the G20 in Argentina. And while there President Trump is set to sign the free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada that replaces NAFTA.
The new agreement trades a snappy acronym for a clunky initialism, USMCA, the United States Mexico Canada Agreement.
REICHARD: Usually, trade agreements are about goods and services. But this new agreement contains language not typically included in a trade pact. It addresses social policy.
WORLD’s reporter based in Washington is Harvest Prude. She’s researched this and is here to talk about it.
Harvest, what’s the novel language in the new trade agreement?
HARVEST PRUDE, REPORTER: It has to do with sexual orientation and gender identity protections, called SOGI protections. There’s a couple clauses in the deal where all parties agree to fight sex-based discrimination in the workplace.
But the clauses go on to include “sexual orientation and gender identity in the definition of sex-based discrimination. Essentially, that makes sexual orientation and gender identity instead of a biological definition of sex, a protected class.
REICHARD: Who or what is behind including SOGI policy in it?
PRUDE: My Capital Hill sources told me that Canada pushed hard for this language to be included. Canadian representatives even wanted a whole chapter devoted to SOGI advancement. It was the U.S. representative who cut it down to just a couple of clauses instead.
REICHARD: What’s been the response?
PRUDE: Well, when the agreement went online for public commentary, that’s when people really noticed the SOGI language. Forty-six House Republicans asked the Trump administration to remove the language.
I talked to Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, who helped spearhead this effort. He said this isn’t the way for social policy to be decided in this country. It should be through the states and Congress. Let’s have a listen:
LAMBORN: Even if the language is not legally binding—it would be an excuse for activist courts to tell the U.S. government and federal agencies that they have to abide by language regarding SOGI thats in this trade agreement because we adopted the trade agreement. That offends my sense of wanting to respect our country’s sovereignty and it’s a way for liberal doctrine to get into our law without it ever having been adopted by Congress or by state government.
I also talked with Jenna Ellis, a former constitutional lawyer who’s now with the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. She told me that judges could cite the trade agreement to rule on the side of SOGI policies. That creates precedent. She also said lawmakers could use it to push federal SOGI laws.
The U.S. currently doesn’t have federally binding SOGI laws, but a number of states do. In these states, people have used SOGI laws to sue Christians who want to protect their conscience. An example is in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case with Jack Phillips in Colorado.
REICHARD: Can it be renegotiated at this point?
PRUDE: The U.S. hasn’t indicated that they’re going to strike this language, so far. If it’s signed, it goes to Congress under a fast-track trade deal. That means lawmakers can’t haggle over amendments. They can only vote yes or no. Conservative lawmakers have to decide: Do we try to sink the whole deal over this social policy language or accept it?
REICHARD: If the agreement is signed and approved by Congress, what happens?
PRUDE: Well, the deal holds for 16 years. It is subject to review every six years. But before it passes, it also has to face another obstacle. And that’s Democrats, who aren’t happy with the deal either. That’s more to do with environmental reasons and not social policy ones.
REICHARD: Harvest Prude writes for WORLD out of the nation’s capital. Harvest, thanks for this report.
PRUDE: You’re welcome, Mary.