One month after the mass shooting in Orlando at a gay nightclub, congressional Republicans are holding a committee hearing to discuss legalizing discrimination against LGBT people. Despite repeated calls from fellow lawmakers, activists, and civil rights organizations, chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) refused to cancel or postpone the hearing.
The hearing will focus on the so-called “First Amendment Defense Act” which would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBT people if they cite their religious beliefs. Conservative Christian organizations and activists have been clamboring for special exemptions from civil rights laws since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
“This hearing is nothing more than an election-year stunt to rally conservatives at the expense of LGBT Americans,” said Equality Act sponsor and LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. David Cicilline (RI-1). “Let’s be clear – there is no religious basis to deny basic rights and liberties to someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Period.”
Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, will testify in front of the committee today.
“The Orlando tragedy on June 12 was a time of heartbreak for millions around the world and the worst attack on the LGBT community in our nation’s history,” said Obergefell. “Today, exactly one month after this horrifying event, this hearing is deeply hurtful to a still-grieving LGBT community. It is difficult for me to imagine why anyone would think such discrimination should be permitted in the year 2016. I believe that the United States Congress must be better than this and it is my sincere hope that Congress will move away from elevating proposals that only serve to harm vulnerable communities.”