Republican senators have reintroduced the First Amendment Defense Act, which if it becomes law will give the federal government’s blessing to discrimination against LGBT people and others in the name of religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality. The measure was introduced by Utah Sen. Mike Lee and 21 Republican co-sponsors, including Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
If it becomes law, it will give the federal government’s blessing to discrimination against LGBT people and others in the name of religious beliefs about marriage and sexuality. According to the Advocate, language in the bill states that its purpose is “to ensure that the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as a union of one man and one woman, or two individuals as recognized under Federal law, or those sexual relations outside marriage are improper.”
The bill would prevent alteration of federal tax treatment, denial of or reduction in grants or contracts, denial of access to federal property or institutions, and a host of other actions against individuals and entities that refuse service based on these views. The bill “reframes the original wording to exclude publicly traded for-profit companies, federal employees and contractors, and health care facilities from the list of protected entities,” noted HuffPost, but does give its okay to discrimination by privately held for-profit companies.
In a statement, Sen. Lee said the legislation is necessary to ensure the federal government doesn’t impinge on individuals’ beliefs about marriage.
“What an individual or organization believes about the traditional definition of marriage is not — and should never be — a part of the government’s decision-making process when distributing licenses, accreditations, or grants,” Lee said. “And the First Amendment Defense Act simply ensures that this will always be true in America – that federal bureaucrats will never have the authority to require those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage to choose between their living in accordance with those beliefs and maintaining their occupation or their tax status.”
Patheos reported that in a little-noticed press release issued late in the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged his support for the First Amendment Defense Act. Trump’s pledge to support FADA strengthened and reinforced his position among white evangelicals, who would prove to be crucial in his 2016 electoral victory.
In the statement, titled “Issues Of Importance To Catholics,” which has since been deleted, Trump promised to sign FADA into law: “If I am elected president, and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”
Jennifer Pizer, law and policy director for Lambda Legal, said the bill is evidence of “one of the main goals is to freeze-frame the lack of civil rights protections for LGBT people.”
“Many religiously affiliated nonprofits want to keep getting a lot of public money and want to be able to discriminate,” Pizer told Washington Blade. “We have been steadily building the body of the law and the public recognition and that that discrimination is wrong and that’s true if it’s LGBT people or same-sex couples as well, so it’s an effort to get public money.”
PHOTO: Sen. Mike Lee, by Michael Key, Washington Blade