Belief ‘about the traditional definition of marriage…should never be part of the government’s decision-making process…’
(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Braving the gods of political correctness again, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah on Thursday reintroduced the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which he says is designed to “prevent the federal government from discriminating against individuals or institutions based on their beliefs about marriage.”
In a press release, Lee explained that the act:
Prohibits the federal government from taking adverse action against individuals or institutions based on their definition of marriage or beliefs about premarital sex.
It creates a cause of action in federal court for individuals or institutions that have been discriminated against by the government.
Plaintiffs can seek injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and compensatory damages.
The bill originated as a response to testimony from Barack Obama’s solicitor general during the 2015 same-sex marriage case of Obergefell v. Hodges.
The government’s top lawyer said then that (as accurately paraphrased by Lee) “if the Court found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the IRS might subsequently deny tax-exempt status to any religious school that wanted to continue operating in accordance with their belief in the traditional definition of marriage.”
The court did indeed require a nationwide legal redefinition of marriage, so Lee’s bill would ward off this tacit threat uttered by the then-solicitor.
That idea of protecting religious rights within a traditionalist faith organization has the political Left up in arms.
The Huffington Post quickly published an article headlined “GOP Senator Reintroduces Bill to Protect Discrimination Against LGBTQ People [emphasis added].”
The Human Rights Campaign’s David Stacy told HuffPo that “Supporters of this legislation are using religious liberty as a sword to hurt LGBTQ families.”
Lee said the charge is absurd, and hastens to note that his bill would not alter public accommodations law, employment law, or housing-discrimination law, nor would it alter federal protections for same-sex couples.
But it would protect the faith-based institutions to abide by their own beliefs, and to advocate the same.
“What an individual or organization believes about the traditional definition of marriage is not – and should never be – a part of the government’s decision-making process when distributing licenses, accreditations, or grants… [or] maintaining their occupation or their tax status.”
When the bill was first introduced in 2016, the leftist Media Matters called it an “attack on LGBT rights,” and Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern fulminated that “it would instantly revoke every federal gay rights measure ever passed and pre-emptively nullify any future measures” – but they provided little realistic evidence for such incendiary rhetoric.
Roger Severino of the conservative Heritage Foundation defended it strongly in a column in the Daily Signal.
He refuted the scaremongering by noting, succinctly, that “FADA only prevents … imposition of tax penalties, not every penalty in federal law. Most of the criticisms of FADA, including the most fantastical ones, vanish once this is understood.”
Furthermore, Severino noted, “The Supreme Court itself said that the belief in marriage as the union of one man and one woman is grounded in ‘decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises,’ not on discrimination,” he wrote.
“FADA respects this truth and gives life to the best of our traditions of tolerance and religious freedom.”
As Lee’s press release notes, the bill is co-sponsored by 21 other senators.
They include Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Roger Wicker (R-MS) Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jim Risch (R-ID), , John Thune (R-SD), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY), Ben Sasse (R-NE), John Hoeven (R-ND), David Perdue (R-GA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Rand Paul (R-KY), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Boozman (R-LA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).
“The First Amendment was designed to empower speech, not silence it,” said Cruz in a statement. “It protects all religious beliefs, without attempting to undermine them.
“This bill will ensure no individual or institution will have to fear discrimination from the federal government for their beliefs, and I am proud to join Sen. Lee and my colleagues in this effort.”