First Amendment Defense Act triggers a new battle over same-sex marriage.
The First Amendment Defense Act is a bill that would protect those people who believe only in traditional marriage, marriage between one man and one woman, and not in same-sex marriage from any action by the federal government. The bill would allow those people to discriminate against same-sex couples claiming their religious beliefs as a reason. Religiously affiliated universities and colleges would be able to deny admission to LGBT members, and still be eligible for tax-exemptions, and compete for federal grants and contracts. People who oppose same-sex marriage would be able to deny services to same-sex couples without any consequences.
The bill, sponsored by Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee and Idaho Republican Representative Raul Labrador, was introduced into the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives last month. Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Tuesday July 12, Rep. Labrador said that “No American should be intimidated or threatened because of their belief in traditional marriage.” The intention of the bill is not to discriminate against anyone or to take away the rights of anyone, but to preserve the nation’s long-held beliefs in the value of religious freedom.
Rep. Labrador has so far lined up 171 House Republicans to co-sponsor his bill. The Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that if Congress passes the bill, he would sign it.
Prior to the hearing, about 70 civil rights and gay rights groups urged the committee chairman, Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, to cancel the hearing. However, he went ahead with the hearing. Many critics pointed out the insensitiveness in the timing of the hearing, including Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in last year’s same-sex marriage case that he won with a 5-4 ruling. He said that the bill getting a hearing only a month after the Orlando gay nightclub massacre is profoundly sad.
The harmful First Amendment Defense Act would give "license to discriminate" against same-sex and unmarried… https://t.co/8GqFUcjFYm
— Jeremy Scott Hobbs (@hobbsjeremys) February 25, 2016
GOP Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch backing the bill by signing on as co-sponsors shows that the bill has strong backing among the Idaho congressional delegation.
James Piotrowski, the Democratic opponent of Rep. Labrador in the election, tagged the First Amendment Defense Act as extreme and dangerous. He said that Rep. Labrador is trying to incite more division and hatred with the bill.
Professor Katherine Franke of New York's Columbia Law School told the committee that the religious liberties in the country are already well-protected and that the First Amendment Defense Act is not necessary.
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