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Everyone hates this Republican lawmaker’s terrible, no good ‘compromise’ plan on LGBT rights

Nick Duffy December 6, 2019
Rep. Chris Stewart's bill received a frosty reception

Rep. Chris Stewart's bill received a frosty reception (Samuel Corum - Pool/Getty Images)

LGBT+ groups and lawmakers have rejected a Republican congressman’s attempt to forge a “compromise” on civil rights that hands small businesses and religious people an effective license to keep discriminating against LGBT+ people.

Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart unveiled the so-called “Fairness for All Act” on Friday, in a supposed attempt to reach a cross-party compromise on LGBT+ issues in Congress.

However, the proposals have been rejected outright by civil rights campaigners and lawmakers, who have pointed out that the legislation would end up doing more harm than good by creating an effective license to discriminate.

Republican lawmaker ‘compromise’ bill will still allow a lot discrimination.

Stewart’s plan would outlaw some discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but at the same time would create broad opt-outs for “the owners of small businesses whose religious and moral principles prevent them from participating in activities that are contrary to their conscience and beliefs.”

Under the plan, businesses with 15 employees or fewer would still be permitted to discriminate against LGBT+ customers – despite having no such exemption from race and sex discrimination laws.

Rep. Chris Stewart's bill has been rejected by LGBT+ campaigners
Republican Rep. Chris Stewart’s bill has been rejected by LGBT+ campaigners (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The bill also permits religious organisations, schools and businesses to continue to discriminate against LGBT+ people in employment, while also explicitly protecting foster care agencies that refuse to serve LGBT+ people.

Stewart claimed: “All of God’s children, regardless of sexual orientation or religion, deserve dignity, respect, and the right to pursue happiness. This legislation allows us to settle the legal questions and get back to the business of loving our neighbours.”

Bill gets frosty reception from LGBT+ groups and civil rights campaigners.

Campaigners pointed out that the proposals fall well short of the Equality Act, a bill being blocked by Senate Republicans that would extend existing civil rights laws to LGBT+ people across all 50 states.

National rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Lambda Legal, NAACP, PFLAG National and the Transgender Law Center, issued a rare joint statement roundly rejecting the legislation.

The groups made clear that the “broad exemptions” amount to “essentially licensing discrimination against LGBTQ people and women.”

The statement said: “The Fairness for All Act is anything but fair, and it certainly does not serve all of us.

“It is an affront to existing civil rights protections that protect people on the basis of race, sex, and religion and creates new, substandard protections for LGBTQ people with massive loopholes and carve-outs.”

In a separate statement, LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair Rep. David N. Cicilline made clear: “This bill does not protect LGBTQ people. Instead it codifies discrimination.

“The House already overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Equality Act, which will ensure equal protection under the law for LGBTQ Americans. The Senate should bring the Equality Act up without further delay.”

Meanwhile, Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso warned: “The so-called Fairness for All Act is an unacceptable, partisan vehicle that erodes existing civil rights protections based on race, sex and religion, while sanctioning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.

“For LGBTQ people living at the intersection of multiple marginalised identities, this bill is a double whammy of dangerous rollbacks and discriminatory carve-outs. This bill is both wrong and harmful, and we strongly oppose it.”

However, the bill has had some support – from the Trump administration.

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere, one of the few out Trump administration officials, said: “President Trump has protected human dignity, fought for inclusion, promoted LGBTQ Americans and strongly protected religious freedom for everyone while in office.

“The White House looks forward to reviewing the legislation.”

More: Donald Trump, Fairness For All Act, Trump

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