The ACLU and more than 70 national, state, and local groups sent a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz demanding that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform cancel a hearing on the hateful anti-LGBT First Amendment Defense Act, scheduled to take place exactly one month after the Orlando shooting.
The bill, introduced by the two bigots pictured above, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), left, and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). would make it legal to discriminate against LGBT people based on religious beliefs
“It’s outrageous that Congress would hold a hearing on legislation that would make it legal to discriminate against LGBT people with taxpayer dollars one month after the mass shooting that killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay club in Orlando,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project. “Congress should instead focus its efforts on protecting people against violence or discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love.”
The bill’s supporters argue that the singular intent of the bill is to prevent discrimination against “people and institutions that define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.” In practice, the ACLU said, the bill will permit sweeping taxpayer-funded discrimination. Based on a professed religious belief or even a legally ambiguous “moral conviction,” private organizations and certain federal contractors would be empowered to refuse a range of services to LGBT people, single mothers, and unmarried couples.
The Human Rights Campaign explained the measure:
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.
Last September, The New York Times editorial board attacked the bill, warning that it would “it would deliberately warp the bedrock principle of religious freedom under the Constitution.”
As critics of the bill quickly pointed out, the measure’s broad language — which also protects those who believe that “sexual relations are properly reserved to” heterosexual marriages alone — would permit discrimination against anyone who has sexual relations outside such a marriage. That would appear to include women who have children outside of marriage, a class generally protected by federal law.
This bizarre fixation on what grown-ups do in their bedrooms — which has long since been rejected by the Supreme Court and the vast majority of Americans — is bad enough. The bill makes matters worse by covering for-profit companies, which greatly multiplies the potential scope of discrimination against gays and lesbians.
The bill has broad right-wing support (171 co-sponsors in the House and 37 in the Senate — all Republicans but one, Representative Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, and has been endorsed by the Republican National Committee and presumptive nominee Donald Trump) and should serve as a warning that the fight to retain LGBT rights and protections is far from over and we must continue to be vigilant against efforts to take them away from us.