In the midst of demands for gun control legislation and Donald Trump’s burgeoning trade war, a group of 22 Republicans are instead focusing their efforts on legalizing discrimination.
On Thursday (8 March), Utah Senator Mike Lee reintroduced the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA).
Described as a religious liberty bill by Republicans, the legislation essentially legalizes discrimination against LGBTI people in the name of ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’.
The bill’s text states that its aim is to ‘ensure the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially’ based on their religious beliefs and moral convictions. Specifically, in regards to beliefs that marriage is recognized as a union between a man and a woman, or two people recognized under federal law, and that sexual relations outside of marriage is improper.
It is important to note the bill does not try to invalidate the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision.
As the findings of the bill state: ‘In a pluralistic society, in which people of good faith hold more than one view of marriage, it is possible for the government to recognize same-sex marriage as required by the United States Supreme Court without forcing persons with sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions to the contrary to conform.’
However, sex outside of marriage and same-sex relationships (not legally married), are still fair game for discrimination.
Lee and Idaho Representative Raul Labrador first introduced the bill in 2015. That version, though, did not progress forward.
Figures like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz support the new bill.
In a statement on his website, Lee said a person or organization’s beliefs about traditional marriage should never be ‘part of the government’s decision-making process’.
Religion is the court’s new defendant
The fight for equality and inclusion has always been at odds with elements of religion, especially in the political sphere.
On a nationwide scale, there’s the matter of cakes.
Except the Supreme Court’s current case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, is about much more than wedding cakes. Several religious leaders have come forward stating the case is about discrimination, not religious freedom.
Can someone refuse service to an individual or couple based on their sexual orientation based on religious beliefs? That’s the First Amendment debate at hand.
It’s starting to spread across the country and until federal law provides answers, it poses a great threat.
‘Ripe for abuse’
One Iowa Action executive director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel described the bill as ‘vague and ripe for abuse’ to GSN.
It leaves many vulnerable to discrimination, he added, including LGBTI people, single mothers, religious minorities, and more.
Similar to other discrimination bills, such as North Carolina’s bathroom bill, it also poses negative economic consequences, Hoffman-Zinnel warned.
‘We are hopeful that it will not move forward.’
David Stacy, the Government Affairs Director at the Human Rights Campaign, said the bill turns religious liberty into a sword rather than ‘serving as a shield to protect religious expression from government overreach’.