Democrats Introduce Do No Harm Act to Protect LGBTQ

The RFRA was being subverted

Democratic Party Senators Patrick Leahy (Vt), Kamala Harris (Calif), and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) introduced the Do No Harm Act. This would amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to prevent the latter from being utilized to justify discriminatory attitudes towards LGBTQ individuals.

Harris, in her statement, said the founding principle of United States includes freedom to worship and the right to live completely free of any discrimination or any fear of undermining on the sole reason of gender identity, gender, sexual orientation or race. She continued to say the Do No Harm Act will make sure that these rights are protected.

The Do No Harm Act is unlikely to be passed in the GOP controlled Congress. This action, however, shows the stance of the party when it comes to a critical question laid bare on the lap of Supreme Court. It is the decision to take when both conservative Christians and LGBT people feel their civil rights could be on the chopping block.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed by Congress in 1993. It was done after the United States Supreme Court took a controversial decision in 1990 which angered both conservatives and liberals. The Supreme Court in its 1997 ruling said the Act cannot be applied to individual states. This led to 22 states having their own versions of the RFRA law. The legislation was designed to protect the constitutional right of minority religious groups to exercise respective religious beliefs freely. The RFRA bars the federal government from substantially burdening any person's religious practice. Exceptions can be made if it is the least restrictive method of furthering government interest. Some organizations, including multiple ones from civil rights communities welcomed this law. They saw this legislation as a vital shield from the tyrannical majoritarian rule.

The first few years saw the RFRA being used in cases which involved minority religious practitioners, like Muslims and Sikhs wanting the right to wear religious headgear while posing for a driver's license photograph. The recent years, however, saw the Act being abused by conservative Christians. They claim that the RFRA protects their personal rights not to do something which supposedly goes against their religious sensibilities. The Do No Harm Act will prevent the RFRA to be used to deny all protections against any discriminatory laws or any instance which promotes equal opportunity.

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