Senate Republicans are gearing up legislation they hope to pass under incoming President Donald Trump. Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, has announced he will reintroduce the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that allows people and businesses that hold religious objections to same-sex marriage to refuse to serve members of the LGBT community.
“Hopefully November’s results will give us the momentum we need to get this done next year,” Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Lee, said, reports BuzzFeed. “We do plan to reintroduce FADA next Congress and we welcome Trump’s positive words about the bill.”
The bill was originally submitted to both the House and Senate in 2015, but withdrawn after complaints from Democrats.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a former Republican presidential candidate, is a co-sponsor of FADA.
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“The prospects for protecting religious freedom are brighter now than they have been in a long time,” Cruz said. “We are having ongoing conversations with our colleagues both in Congress and leaders in the new administration about a multitude of ways we can honor the commitment made to the voters in this last election.”
The law allows people or businesses to declare they only consider marriage to be between one man and one woman, and that sexual relations can only take place if the couple is married. This potentially allows discrimination against those who live together and single parents, as well as gay couples.
Jennifer Pizer, Law and Policy Director at Lambda Legal, sees FADA as a reversal of various established laws.
"This proposed new law violates both Equal Protection and the Establishment Clause by elevating one set of religious beliefs above all others," she said, notes NBC News. "And by targeting LGBT Americans as a group, contrary to settled constitutional law ... There cannot be even one iota of doubt that this bill endorses one set of religious beliefs above others, and targets people in same-sex relationships, married or not, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples who live together. It's an unconstitutional effort to turn the clock back to a time when unmarried mothers had to hide in shame, and LGBT people had to hide, period."
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Cruz sees things differently.
“Any effort to protect religious liberty has brighter prospects with a new Congress and new administration,” he said. He said the “relentless assault” on what he calls "religious freedom" was a major driving force for voters in the election.
"If Congress were to pass the federal FADA as currently written, and the next president were to sign it into law, I'm confident heads would spin at how fast the constitutional challenges would fly into court," Pizer countered, notes NBC News. “We're likely to have a great many allies because these attempts to misuse religion for discrimination offend enormous numbers of Americans who cherish both religious liberty and equality for all."