Congress Debates Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill

Over a year after it was first introduced, the shockingly anti-gay First Amendment Defense Act finally got its day in the sun with a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. And the House’s decision to hear a blatantly homophobic bill on the one month anniversary of the Orlando shootings did not go unremarked.

If lending credence to homophobic legislation on the anniversary of a historically unprecedented mass shooting targeting the LGBQT community wasn’t enough of a slap in the face, the contents of the bill itself are deeply disturbing.

In fact, FADA is so problematic that even key thinkers on the right hate it. The legislation joins a number of similar religious freedom bills that have already passed in individual states.

FADA itself is relatively short — perhaps deceptively so — given its potential for outsized influence over both American life and politics.

According to the bill, the government would not be allowed to “discriminate” against individuals, organizations or even corporations that say a belief or action is rooted in a moral conviction that same-gender marriage is wrong.

So what does that mean?

Among other things: The IRS can’t strip homophobic organizations like churches and charities of special tax status; the government can’t terminate contracts on the basis of discriminatory behavior; and the government must continue to offer federal benefits and subsidies to organizations that would normally be excluded for discriminatory practices.

Supporters of the bill claim that it’s necessary to protect people from “government hostility” and  ”growing intolerance.” The parade of conservatives emerging in support of the bill is dripping with privilege, as well as the deeply entrenched mythology of “persecution” of members of the religious community.

The bill is so broad that it would allow people to attribute any number of decisions handed down by the government to “discrimination,” granting them tremendous power, while LGBQT people would have no ground to stand on.

Essentially, FADA doesn’t just legalize homophobia, but it also legitimizes and entrenches LGBT discrimination.

Moreover, as even critics on the right have pointed out, it doesn’t provide protections in the opposite direction: Someone who has moral convictions regarding the sanctity of same-gender marriages doesn’t get any privileges under FADA.

Hearing the government’s attempt to enforce the LGBQT community’s limited protections described as “discrimination” is galling, and this lopsided bill has the potential to codify such discrimination. Thanks to the vague wording of the bill, there’s not even a pretense of a check on the behavior of homophobic and transphobic actors.

The law would even allow discriminatory individuals and groups to sue the federal government 00  citing FADA as a defense — should the government opt to enforce laws designed to protect the LGBQT community from discrimination.

Meanwhile, people who experience discrimination would have no such recourse — if they challenged discriminatory practices and a court ruled in their favor, the respondent in their suit could appeal, using FADA as a basis.

And it’s not just LGBQT couples that could take a hit because of FADA. Because the law specifically references the notion that “sexual relations” should be reserved for marriage, unmarried straight couples could also face discrimination.

This law means that services from health care to hotel rooms could be denied on the basis of marital status. Does your child go to a school that receives public funding? The school could expel students based on their family’s status and continue to receive funds. It could also fire teachers and staff on the same grounds — all in the name of religious beliefs.

If this sounds like a nightmare, it should, but with nearly 200 cosponsors and counting, the House is all about it.

The problem with FADA isn’t just that it’s discriminatory — it would also establish some extremely dangerous precedents.

For one thing, the bill cites the First Amendment, but it really has nothing to do with the Constitution. The First Amendment protects freedom of religion, but it does not protect the right to discriminate. Numerous Supreme Court cases, as well as cases in lower courts across the country, have ruled to that effect.

So what can you do about FADA?

Find out if your representative is a cosponsor, and call or email her to lodge your objections. You can also check the list of Senate cosponsors to see if you spot any familiar names.

Make it clear that, religious beliefs and issues about homosexuality aside, the bill threatens to undermine the very amendment it claims to protect.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

79 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven9 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John B
John B1 years ago

Thanks for sharing,

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Karen H.
Karen H2 years ago

I guess "We don't want sharia law" only applies when it's the "other guy's" sharia law.

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Sue H.
Sue H2 years ago

What the hell happened to the concept of Separation of Church and State???

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Teresa Antela
Teresa Antela2 years ago

noted

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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