The US Conference Of Catholic Bishops has thrown its support behind a proposed federal law explicitly permitting anti-gay marriage discrimination.
Earlier this month a group of 22 Republican Senators reintroduced the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would block the federal government from enforcing anti-discrimination protections or civil rights laws in cases where people acted based on “a sincerely held religious belief” in marriage.
The bill, spearheaded by Senator Mike Lee, is co-sponsored by some of the most outspoken foes of LGBT rights in the Senate, including Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
As written, the bill states: “The Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as a union of one man and one woman”.
It has today earned backing from the Catholic Church’s most powerful US body, the United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which gave its full-throated backing to the law.
The USCCB said: “We welcome and applaud the recent reintroduction of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). The USCCB has been vocal in support of the legislation since its inception.
“FADA is a modest and important measure that protects the rights of faith-based organizations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
“For example, in a pluralistic society, faith-based charitable agencies and schools should not be excluded from participation in public life by loss of licenses, accreditation, or tax-exempt status because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government’s view.
“The leadership of the Catholic Church will continue to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good.
“The Church will also continue to stand for the ability of all to exercise their religious beliefs and moral convictions in public life without fear of government discrimination. We are pleased to support the First Amendment Defense Act, and we urge Congress to pass this important legislation.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD: “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.
“While President Trump and the Senate Republicans behind this bill are pushing for discriminatory legislation, the LGBTQ community will not be silent and continue to protect the hardworking LGBTQ American families who would be placed in direct harm by this unjust bill.”
The Human Rights Campaign warns: “FADA would undermine core civil rights protections for LGBTQ people.
“This bill would undermine the government’s ability to enforce the federal protections that exist to protect LGBTQ people and their families.
“Under FADA, individuals, many businesses, and non-profit organizations—even those using taxpayer dollars contracting with the federal government—could openly violate non-discrimination policies or refuse to serve same-sex couples. As long as they claimed their actions are based on their belief about marriage, the government would have little recourse. “
Donald Trump has already pledged to sign the bill into law if it makes it to his desk, in a rare written campaign promise to conservative Catholics while on the campaign trail in 2016.
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At the time, he said in a statement: “Religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“It is our first liberty and provides the most important protection in that it protects our right of conscience. Activist judges and executive orders issued by Presidents who have no regard for the Constitution have put these protections in jeopardy.
“If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”
Trump’s pledge is believed to have been orchestrated by Vice President Mike Pence, who previously supported the discriminatory law himself and signed similar legislation while Governor of Indiana.
Senator Lee claims: “Without FADA, federal bureaucrats are free to punish individuals or institutions that have a different definition of marriage than they do.
“Just as Congress protected people from being punished for declining to participate in abortions after Roe v Wade, the First Amendment Defense Act prevents people from being punished for their beliefs about marriage.”
Lee continues to claim that FADA “does not alter public accommodations law” to allow anti-LGBT discrimination, despite the bill blocking the government from enforcing anti-discrimination protections.
He also adds that the bill is not homophobic because it also applies to people who support gay marriage.
The Senator, who has a lengthy anti-LGBT voting record, claims: “All Federal definitions of marriage are protected under FADA. FADA would protect a liberal institution that promoted gay marriage, just as it would protect a conservative institution that wanted to promote traditional marriage.”