14:05, March 09 203 0

2018-03-09 14:05:06


Senate Republicans introduce bill to give companies a license to discriminate

Civil rights and LGBT groups are denouncing a Senate bill that allow companies to claim First Amendment rights as they discriminate against LGBT people.

The First Amendment Defense Act, re-introduced by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, from 2015, has 21 Republican senators as co-sponsors.

“FADA prohibits the federal government from taking adverse action against individuals or institutions based on their definition of marriage or beliefs about premarital sex,” Lee said in a press release on his site.

The bill would extend further rights to private corporations. “It creates a cause of action in federal court for individuals or institutions that have been discriminated against by the government,” Lee said. “Plaintiffs can seek injunctive relief, declaratory relief and compensatory damages.”

Civil-rights and LGBT groups were quick to criticize the proposal, and it runs counter to recent court decisions that have supported the employment rights of LGBT people.

Related: Federal courts are standing up to Trump & Sessions’ anti-transgender agenda

“Whatever the sponsors of this shameful legislation may say, this is a blatant example of using religion as a justification to discriminate,” said Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The bill opens the door to a wide range of taxpayer-funded discrimination. It would let private companies and nonprofit government contractors — which includes a significant portion of social services providers — refuse to provide a service or benefit to people because they do not fit their definition of family, from same-sex married couples and their children, a single parent and their child, or an unmarried couple who are living together.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, linked the effort to President Trump’s ongoing attacks against LGBT people.

“America was founded on the freedom of religion and this shared value continues to be critical to our nation’s success, but it does not give people the right to impose their beliefs on others, to harm others, or to discriminate,” Ellis said. She noted that Trump said on his campaign site that he’d sign such legislation.

“While President Trump and the Senate Republicans behind this bill are pushing for discriminatory legislation, the LGBT community will not be silent and continue to protect the hardworking LGBT American families who would be placed in direct harm by this unjust bill.”

In contrast to this legislation, the majority of Americans oppose religious-exemption laws against LGBT Americans, Ellis pointed out. The Public Religion Research Institute also found that 72 percent of Americans support laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

The 21 Senate co-sponsors, all Republicans, include both senators from Idaho, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — Tom Cotton, Arkansas Marco Rubio, Florida David Perdue, GeorgiaMike Crapo, IdahoJim Risch, Idaho Jerry Moran, Kansas Rand Paul, Kentucky John Boozman, Louisiana Roger Wicker, Mississippi Roy Blunt, Missouri Ben Sasse, Nebraska John Hoeven, North Dakota Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Tim Scott, South Carolina Mike Rounds, South Dakota John Thune, South Dakota Ted Cruz, Texas Mike Lee, Utah Orrin Hatch, Utah Ron Johnson, Wisconsin John Barrasso, Wyoming Mike Enzi, Wyoming

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