Anti-LGBT Measures – including the First Amendment Defense Act – are on the Move in Congress

By Adam Polaski • May 4, 2016 • 3:55 pm

Two measures allowing for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are moving in the House of Representatives – even as states like North Carolina and Mississippi continue to experience economic backlash from approving similar bills. Late last week, the House Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation which provides funding for the Defense Department. The amendment, approved during a 2 a.m. vote, would undermine key provisions of President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order extending LGBT nondiscrimination protections to federal contractors.


Lawmakers in the House also are eyeing a possible hearing in upcoming weeks on the deceptively titled ‘First Amendment Defense Act,’ or FADA. The bill, which would allow businesses and individuals to deny services to LGBT people, did not advance in Congress last year but appears poised to return – despite the national backlash against multiple state-level bills over the past four months.

Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said today:

“A small group of lawmakers are so committed to advancing discrimination against LGBT people that they’re now attaching their proposals to bills meant to fund our nation’s defenses. That’s a baffling tactic, particularly given the strong opposition we’ve seen across the nation to these types of proposals. At the federal level, our lawmakers should advance a conversation about comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that extend to all Americans – not double-down on archaic measures that we’ve seen overwhelmingly rejected in the states.”

Learn more about – and take action against – the First Amendment Defense Act here.

The Russell amendment to NDAA is vaguely written, but would likely upend President Obama’s Executive Order extending LGBT nondiscrimination protections to federal contractors. It would likely mean federal contractors that receive taxpayer dollars could discriminate in employment and services. This could impact a wide range of critical services, including but not limited to:

  • Adoption services
  • Homeless shelters
  • Job training
  • Counseling services
  • Health care support services

The so-called First Amendment Defense Act would similarly allow for taxpayer-funded discrimination:

  • Much of President Obama’s amended Executive Order 11246, which protects LGBT employees of federal contractors from job discrimination, would be left unenforceable. The Williams Institute estimates the executive order protects an additional 16.5 million employees.
  • A government contractor could fire an employee with a strong performance record after executives learn that employee recently married his partner of the same sex.
  • A school that receives federal funding could fire a teacher it suspects of having a premarital sexual relationship with her longtime boyfriend.
  • A federal government employee could refuse to process a claim, benefit or service to which a married same-sex couple is entitled under federal law, and to which the United States Supreme Court has held the couple is fully entitled under the Constitution.

McTighe continued this week, “Religious freedom is one of our most fundamental values, and no one is trying to change that. Increasingly, the American public sees these types of bills for what they truly are – attempts to legalize discrimination against LGBT people and others. The state fights over the last four months have proven that these types of bills have economic consequences, and that they don’t reflect American values.”

Take action against FADA at our ‘First Amendment Defense Act’ Action Center here.

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