Earlier today, a group of Republican congressmen led by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced the 'Marriage and Religious Freedom Act' which would “protect freedom of conscience for those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
The bill drafted by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) is a "narrowly-tailored piece of legislation" that would protect groups "from discrimination by the federal government," he said in an interview this week.
Labrador said he began drafting his proposal partly out of fear that the IRS and other federal agencies might unfairly target groups that oppose same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court struck down a federal law barring gay couples from obtaining federal benefit this summer.
After the court's decision, "there were a lot of ideas about what to do," Labrador said. "Some people looked at overturning it, or doing a constitutional amendment. I looked at the immediate need, which is the protection of religious institutions and churches, so that they can continue practicing their religion as they see fit."
The Human Rights Campaign reports that it "permits federal workers, as well as recipients of federal grants and contracts, to refuse to serve married same-sex couples based on their personal religious beliefs about marriage. It also gives anyone the right to sue the federal government for monetary damages if he or she believes the federal government has discriminated against them based on their religious convictions regarding marriage for same-sex couples."
They offer a few examples:
If passed, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would permit a federal worker processing tax returns, approving visa applications or reviewing Social Security applications to walk away from their responsibilities whenever a same-sex couple's paperwork appeared on his or her desk. It would also allow a federally-funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people. Despite the cosponsors claims, there is no evidence that federal programs have or would discriminate against individuals because of their religious beliefs about marriage. Protections against discrimination based on religious belief are explicitly and robustly provided under the First Amendment and federal nondiscrimination statutes.
Here's a copy of the bill, via Think Progress.
The consequences of this legislation would be immense, such that a few individuals could short-circuit the rights of gay and lesbian couples across the country. Given its prudish inclusion of opposition to premarital sex, these consequences could likely apply to many straight couples as well.
NOM has, of course, given the bill a major endorsement:
“This is a critical piece of legislation to protect religious liberty as a cornerstone of our country and deserves our full support,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “Efforts to redefine marriage pose a direct threat to the free exercise of religion. This legislation would protect the right of organizations to communicate their views about marriage without threat that the tax code will be used to punish them. We applaud Congressman Labrador and his colleagues for their leadership on this important issue.”
“This bill is crucial. Those who wish to redefine marriage would like nothing better than to wield the tax code as a weapon against those who hold a traditional view of marriage. Further, during the IRS hearings before the House Ways and Means Committee we all heard that some legislators would support stripping the tax-exempt status of some groups that support traditional marriage,” continued Brown. “Individuals and groups should be able to freely speak their views about marriage in the public square without fear of governmental reprisal including having their tax exemption stripped. This legislation protects religious freedom and our constitutional rights.”
The bill, they report, has 60 co-sponsors.