The “First Amendment Defense Act”: Providing a License to Discriminate Against LGBT Americans

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The “First Amendment Defense Act”: Providing a License to Discriminate Against LGBT Americans

The deceptively titled First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) has returned to the United States Congress, despite the months-long national conversation around state legislation designed to target LGBTQ Americans. The “First Amendment Defense Act” (S1598/HR2802) is dangerously similar to so many of the anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures this year, as it would enable taxpayer-funded discrimination against legally married same-sex couples and their families. Now, it is starting to move in Congress – and it must be stopped. Take action with us here.

  • July 12, 2016: Hearing Held on FADA
    in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Learn More)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced the bill in the summer of 2015, just before the historic victory extending the freedom to marry to loving, committed same-sex couples across the nation. Despite its misleading name, FADA is a broadly written bill that does not advance existing First Amendment protections – but it does give individuals and organizations a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people simply because they exercise their constitutional right to marry. While FADA’s scope has narrowed since its original introduction, the animus is still clear: to make it easier, and perfectly legal, to discriminate against LGBTQ people. FADA comes at a time when support for LGBTQ equality is at record highs, with continued momentum on the horizon:

  • 74% of Americans believe treating everyone fairly
    takes precedence over one’s religious beliefs (Poll)
  • 71% support protecting LGBTQ people
    from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations (Poll)
  • 2/3 of small business owners
    don’t believe businesses should be able to deny LGBTQ people goods or services based on religious beliefs. (Poll)

FADA Means Real Consequences for Real Americans

Allow for taxpayer-funded discrimination. Homeless shelters, foodbanks, employment and drug counselors, adoption agencies and other non-profit service providers could turn away LGBTQ people because of their objections to same-sex marriages at a time when such families are most in need of support.

  • Create a loophole for not-for-profit federal contractors, allowing them to discriminate against or deny critical services to same-sex couples and their families.
  • Allow privately owned businesses to deny family or medical leave to employees in a same-sex relationship, in violation of FMLA laws. This scenario would force a gay person to choose between their job and caring for their spouse or family members.
  • Allow landlords to deny housing or evict legally married same-sex couples and their families.
  • Enable state-sanctioned discrimination against the LGBTQ people and legally married same-sex couples in the 28 states lacking explicit nondiscrimination protections – leaving LGBT people with no clear legal recourse.