House Republican introduces an LGBTQ discrimination bill with huge religious exemptions

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Today, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) is expected to introduce the Fairness For All Act (FFAA), the Republican answer to the more comprehensive Equality Act which passed the Democratic-led House in May. It’ll mark the first time that a conservative U.S. Congress member has ever introduced pro-LGBTQ legislation.

But even though it’s barely been introduced, conservatives and progressives already hate the bill.

Related: Republicans introduce a bill to criminalize medical care for trans youth in South Carolina

The FFAA would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination in education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas.

But, unlike the Equality Act, it would allow religious organizations and small-business wedding vendors to continue discriminating against LGBTQ people.

The bill would require any business (except for wedding vendors) with more than 15 employees to serve LGBTQ people. It would also allow anti-LGBTQ religious schools and colleges to retain their tax-exempt status while discriminating against LGBTQ people and would also allow any public venues and adoption agencies owned by religious organizations to refuse service to queer people.

Among conservative groups, the Church of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the American Unity Fund, the 1st Amendment Partnership, the Center for Public Justice, and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities all support the FFAA.

But the conservative Heritage Foundation called the proposal “misguided,” saying it would “penalize” transphobic Christians, “violate the privacy and safety” of women and girls, and erode “the free speech and religious liberty rights” of any discriminatory person working outside of a religious organization. They say the law is about “coercing” Christians to “endorse” LGBTQ activities.

“Making ‘gender identity’ a protected class in federal policy, for example, could impose a nationwide transgender bathroom policy, a nationwide pronoun policy, and a nationwide sex-reassignment health care mandate,” writes the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson. His slippery-slope argument presumes a generation’s worth of pro-transgender legal and legislative victories that would need to happen.

But he’s not alone in his distaste for the FFAA. Alliance Defending Freedom, the American College of Pediatricians, the Christian Medical Association, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council all hate the bill, saying it undermines “both fairness and freedom.”

LGBTQ groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), dislike the bill too.

In a statement, HRC President Alphonso David said: “The so-called Fairness for All Act is an unacceptable, partisan vehicle that erodes existing civil rights protections based on race, sex and religion, while sanctioning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.”

“For LGBTQ people living at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, this bill is a double whammy of dangerous rollbacks and discriminatory carve-outs. This bill is both wrong and harmful, and we strongly oppose it.”

David added that the Equality Act “has already passed through the House of Representatives with a bipartisan majority, the support of more than 260 leading companies and more than 500 civil rights, religious, medical and social welfare organizations, and is our movement — and, most importantly, our community’s — top legislative priority.”

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