Distressed over the Supreme Courts’ recent decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges, recognizing marriage equality as a Constitutional right, Republicans in Congress have introduced a bill that would legalize discrimination against gay couples.
The basic purpose of the absurdly titled First Amendment Defense Act is presented squarely in its text. The federal government may not take “any discriminatory action against a person” who “believes or acts in accordance with the religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
As Slate explains, like with other proposed “religious liberty” bills, to understand the true animus of this bill – one need only look to the “details” which are clearly designed to favor discriminatory practices not only by individuals, but also by businesses as “the bill defines a ‘person’ to encompass for-profit businesses and corporations.”
“Discriminatory action” includes revocation of tax-exempt status, grants, loans, benefits, or employment. “Acts,” not just beliefs, are protected. You can simply assert your “moral conviction”—not your actual religious belief—that “sexual relations are properly reserved to” a heterosexual marriage in order to claim a right to be protected. And, perhaps worst of all, there’s no balancing text weighing the expression of these religious beliefs against compelling government interests. Religion wins every time. As the ACLU puts it, the First Amendment Defense Act is like the anti-gay Indiana law on steroids.
According to Slate, the effects of the passage of such a bill would be catastrophic not only for the gay community, but also for single women as the bill commands the courts to use a “narrow construction” in interpreting the bill’s meaning. In short, the bill opens the door for protecting people and businesses who believe “sexual relations are properly reserved” to a married couple (heterosexual, of course) and this includes not only gay couples, but single women.
Slate lists several broad-sweeping effects were this bill to be passed, to include, but not limited to:
- It overrides any legitimate nondiscrimination protections that came before it. And its text is quite sweeping, protecting people (and businesses) who believe “sexual relations are properly reserved to” a heterosexual marriage.
- It would instantly revoke every federal gay rights measure ever passed and pre-emptively nullify any future measures.
- President Obama’s LGBT nondiscrimination order would be entirely undermined: Federal contractors would only need assert that gay sex and gay marriage violate their “moral convictions,” and they could fire gay employees with impunity.
- Federal grantees, such as homeless shelters and drug treatment programs, could turn away gay people at the door.
- Businesses could refuse to let gay employees care for a sick spouse, in contravention of medical leave laws.
- Even low-level government employees could refuse to process gay couples’ tax returns, Social Security checks, or visa applications.
The First Amendment Defense Act currently has 134 co-sponsors in the House and 36 in the Senate, almost all of them Republicans, but were the bill to somehow pass, President Obama would almost certainly veto it.
As Slate reports, “tellingly, more than 3,000 faith leaders have already called upon Congress to back out of this sort of judgment and to oppose the bill. “
Meanwhile in America, Democratic members of Congress introduced their own bill on Thursday described by Mother Jones as “a historically comprehensive bill that would create federal standards to protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing, workplaces, schools, public accommodations, and financial transactions.”