Deceptively Titled ‘First Amendment Defense Act,’ Aimed at Easing Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination, Reintroduced in United States Senate

By Adam Polaski • March 8, 2018 • 2:23 pm

Today lawmakers in the United States Senate reintroduced the deceptively titled “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA), legislation that enables taxpayer-funded discrimination against legally married same-sex couples and their families.

Today’s version of the bill is in some specific ways narrower than similar legislation previously introduced, but the heart of the matter remains the same.  The introduction of the bill explains that its purpose is to “Ensure that the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as a union of one man and one woman, or two individuals as recognized under Federal law, or that sexual relations outside marriage are improper.”

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) reintroduced the legislation today with a handful of cosponsors. The bill allows for a broad “license to discriminate” at the federal level for individuals or institutions opposed to marriage between same-sex couples or sex outside of marriage. It’s similar to HB1523, the sweeping, anti-LGBTQ religious refusal law currently in effect in Mississippi.

Click here to read the new legislation.

Its mission is clear: “In a pluralistic society, in which people of good faith hold more than one view of marriage, it is possible for the government to recognize same-sex marriage as required by the United States Supreme Court without forcing persons with sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions to the contrary to conform.” 

It’s true that Americans are free to personally disagree with marriages between same-sex couples – and no one is trying to change anyone else’s personal beliefs. However, these personal beliefs do not supersede the law: LGBTQ people must be treated fairly and equally, in the same way that non-LGBTQ people are treated.

The “First Amendment Defense Act” legislation was originally introduced in 2015 in both the House and Senate as (S. 1598/H.B. 2802). In July 2016 the bill received a hearing in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR). Dozens of Americans testified against the discriminatory legislation, and it did not advance.

During his 2016 campaign for president, President Donald Trump said he would gladly sign the anti-LGBTQ “First Amendment Defense Act” into law. On his campaign website during the 2016 election on the page “Issues of Importance to Catholics” he wrote, “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.”

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