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How the First Amendment Defense Act Would Legalize LGBT Discrimination

[DIGEST: Salon, NBC, Advocate, Time]

If trends continue, refusing to employ someone, seat someone, serve someone, or even treat someone may soon be acceptable—so long as it’s in the name of religion.

Proposed legislation by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, called the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), would prohibit “the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

The breadth of the language, while targeting members of the LGBTQ community, could also extend to single mothers or unwed heterosexual couples—anyone having sexual relations outside the scope of a heterosexual marriage.

“There cannot be even one iota of doubt that this bill endorses one set of religious beliefs above others, and targets people in same-sex relationships, married or not, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples who live together,” said Jennifer Pizer, Law and Policy Director at Lambda Legal. “It’s an unconstitutional effort to turn the clock back to a time when unmarried mothers had to hide in shame, and LGBT people had to hide, period.”

Credit: Source.
Credit: Source.

The bill was introduced in 2015, but resulted in just one House hearing due to concerns that President Obama would veto the bill. With a Republican president, and a Republican-controlled Congress, that seems likely to change.

“Hopefully November’s results will give us the momentum we need to get this done next year,” said Conn Carroll, Senator Lee’s spokesperson. “We do plan to reintroduce FADA next Congress and we welcome Trump’s positive words about the bill.” The bill currently has 172 cosponsors in the House and 37 in the Senate.

Trump has been positive about FADA, stating that religious freedom is our “most important protection.” “If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths,” the president-elect’s website says. It states further that any religious order “will always have their religious liberty protected on my watch and will not have to face bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs.”

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  • Ali Wilkinson is a lawyer and writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, Elephant Journal and Scary Mommy, among others. She blogs at Run, Knit, Love.

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