An anti-LGBT group that previously supported the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) has withdrawn support for the bill.
The FADA is intended to allow government workers and contractors to discriminate against LGBT people if they said they had a “sincerely held religious belief” against marriage equality. New language makes its prohibition more general.
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) reintroduced the bill several weeks ago, and he changed some of the language.
The bill used to say that the government could not “take any discriminatory action” against a person or a business based on their “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
Now the bill says that no discriminatory action can be taken against a person or a business based on their “sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction, that — (1) marriage is or should be recognized as a union of — (A) one man and one woman; or (B) two individuals as recognized under Federal law; or (2) sexual relations outside marriage are improper.”
So instead of just giving an exemption to the law to people who are against LGBT rights, the new language tries to make the bill about freedom of conscience for everyone.
“The language of Sen. Lee’s revised First Amendment Defense Act will provide a weapon to those who want to press same-sex ‘marriage’ and the LGBT agenda throughout the federal law,” said Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel in a statement. Liberty Counsel is withdrawing their support for the FADA.
“The original version was meant to protect people from being forced to participate in same-sex ceremonies or be discriminated against for their view of marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” he said, without specifying who has been forced to “participate in same-sex ceremonies.”
“The revised version of FADA changes the meaning and will do more harm than good. It is a Trojan horse that we cannot support.”
In other words, they support freedom of conscience for themselves, but even mentioning support for other people’s freedom of conscience “will do more harm than good.”
It’s almost like they don’t actually care about the First Amendment.
HRC is not impressed with the change either. In reality, the changed language won’t actually do anything different – the government isn’t denying contracts to businesses that follow the law.
“It appears to be a false attempt or a failed attempt to make this legislation constitutional by making it seem they’re not just targeting LGBTQ people,” said legal director Sarah Warbelow.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops, though, can see that the bill is still about making a religious exemption for them.
“The Church will also continue to stand for the ability of all to exercise their religious beliefs and moral convictions in public life without fear of government discrimination,” Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said in a statement. “We are pleased to support the First Amendment Defense Act, and we urge Congress to pass this important legislation.”
Since it’s hard to imagine the current wording of the FADA taking away from wingnuts’ freedom at all, the Conference of Catholic Bishops is taking a more serious approach to this law than the Liberty Counsel is.
As a candidate, Donald Trump said that he would sign the FADA.