Republicans Propose 'Religious Freedom' Law in Wake of Gay Marriage

In Depth

In the wake of both the Supreme Court’s recent ruling and the debacle that occurred in Indiana when the state government attempted to allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of religious freedom, moderate republicans are beginning to recognize that gay marriage isn’t going anywhere. But not everyone’s happy about that.

The New York Times reports that now that it’s become clear that the battle for equal rights has been won by those opposing them, Republicans haven’t given up the fight. They’ve decided to do something to make sure that federal businesses and those that have tax-exempt status are still protected by religious freedom laws, even though that might mean that there are more protections for gay and lesbian women and less protection for for-profit businesses that plan to discriminate.

The First Amendment Defense Act is already proving contentious within the party. Moderate Republicans, the Times reveals, have suggested adding two new provisions to the act to make it more palatable to the general public while still protecting those organizations that the right sees as important from the scourge of homosexuals coming to take religious freedoms away. And now even those Republicans who previously fought against same-sex marriage are being a little skittish about the First Amendment Defense Act, including House Speaker John Boehner, long known for his anti-gay views.

From The Times:

“The Supreme Court’s decision on marriage raises a lot of other questions, and a number of members have concerns about issues that it raises and how they might be addressed,” he [Boehner] said. “But no decision has been made on how best to address these.”
‘The bill proposed by moderates, though, would attach two provisions expanding protections long-sought by gay rights groups: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which outlaws workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, and an amendment to the federal Fair Housing Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected characteristics of housing seekers.
“This opens up a can of worms, and Congress needs to show it can do two things at once: protect religious freedoms and provide legal protections for nondiscrimination,” Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, said Friday.

While it may seem ridiculous that anyone’s still debating whether gay and lesbian men and women should be given equal rights to employment, housing, and the ability to shop where they please, it’s still a very real fight inside the GOP.

Gay rights leaders say the fear of gay and lesbian individuals are after religious freedoms is more imaginary than real and that very few organizations have lost their tax-exempt status due to discrimination in the past 30 years.

“The right to believe is fundamental. The right to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate is not,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said Friday.

Fortunately, public opinion has slowed the process of finalizing the legal document and it likely won’t be seen before Congress takes a recess next month. Republicans will now focus on tweaking the language so that churches, religious schools, and charities can continue to discriminate against gays without worrying about governmental repercussions.

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Image via Getty

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