The ‘First Amendment Defense Act’, the vilest religious freedom bill of our time, has been reintroduced by 22 GOP Senators led by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). expect the bill’s lead House sponsor, Raul Labrador, to follow.
The bill’s co-sponsors are Rubio, Crapo, Hatch, Inhofe, Blunt, Risch, Wicker, Enzi, Johnson, Rounds, Barrasso, Sasse, Hoeven, Thune, Paul, Perdue, Scott, Cotton, Boozman, Cruz, and Moran.
Said Lee in a statement: “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. 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.”
Trump pledged to sign the legislation during his campaign for president.
The Human Rights Campaign explained what’s in the First Amendment Defense Act in 2016 – it hasn’t changed:
The legislation would prohibit any adverse action by the federal government against an individual or organization for discriminatory actions against legally married same-sex couples as long as they claim they are acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. “Adverse action” is broadly defined to include the denial or revocation of a federal tax status or deduction; denial of a federal grant, contract, loan, benefit or employment; or any other act of discrimination. The bill provides individuals and organizations the right to sue the federal government for monetary damages in federal court.
If passed, this legislation would create a breakdown of government services and runaway litigation. It would permit a federal employee, for example, to refuse to process tax returns, visa applications or Social Security checks whenever a same-sex couple’s paperwork appears on his or her desk. This legislation would also permit recipients of federal grants and contracts, including those for social services programs like homeless shelters and substance abuse treatment programs, to turn away LGBT people. It allows any of these individuals or groups, or anyone else who believes they have been somehow required by the federal government to approve of married same-sex couples, to file a lawsuit and potentially receive damages from taxpayer money.
As HRC notes:
FADA would roll back critical protections for LGBTQ people and their families:
Executive Order 11,246 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors. However, under this Act, the federal government would be required to continue to contract with a non-profit business or organization with a record of discriminatory employment practices against married gays and lesbians if that employer cited as the reason for the discrimination their belief that same-sex marriage was wrong.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued guidance that shelters receiving HUD grants must not discriminate against same-sex married couples. A non-profit organization could cite this Act and provide their religious conviction against same-sex marriage as a reason to put a same-sex couple back on the street.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides explicit protections from discrimination against LGBTQ beneficiaries. However, under this Act, an emergency shelter receiving VAWA funds to provide services for survivors of intimate partner violence could turn away someone in a same-sex marriage because of their religious belief.
The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act grants a statutory right to 12 weeks of leave for personal illness or caregiving – including caring for a spouse. The Department of Labor has made clear that these rights extend to same-sex married couples regardless of where they live. However, under this Act, closely-held businesses or not-for-profit organizations would be allowed to discriminate by refusing to let a gay or lesbian employee care for their sick spouse despite these clear federal protections.