The panic stricken Religious Right is at it again. Ever since the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage, they’ve been scrambling to find ways to protect their discriminatory ways. Now, on Capitol Hill, Republicans are advancing a bill that would do just that… and more.
The First Amendment Defense Act prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person — which is defined to include for-profit corporations — acting in accordance with a religious belief that favors so-called traditional marriage. This means the feds can’t revoke a nonprofit’s tax-exempt status or end a company’s federal contract over this issue.
The bill specifically protects those who believe that marriage is between “one man and one woman” or that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
This legislation is clearly meant to provide cover to those who wish to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, but it also extends to anyone engaging in sexual relations outside of wedlock. While the initial point of rally for opponents to the bill has been that this will allow for discrimination against single mothers (which it will), it really allows for even broader targeting. It wouldn’t take a marriage license or child to provide grounds for termination should this become law. Openly non-hetero? You’re fired. Living in sin? You’re fired. Suspected of sleeping with someone? You’re fired. Basically, if you engage in any kind of relationship your employer doesn’t approve of, you could easily, and legally, end up on the chopping block should this bill become law.
Nevermind that pregnancy discrimination has been illegal since 1978. Nevermind that the EEOC has long held that discrimination based on gender identity is illegal, and recently proclaimed the same for sexual orientation. Nevermind that prior court rulings on religious exemption has pertained only to ministerial roles.
The scariest part is that such a law, even if challenged, may be upheld in the courts. The decisions in Citizens United and Hobby Lobby established that corporations are people and that they are entitled to freedom of religion. If such case law is applied in this instance, women may once more get the short end of the employment stick, as religious exemptions in discrimination cases have historically impacted them disproportionately. The only hope at this point is that such impact provides grounds for claiming the government has an overriding interest in preventing discrimination — a tenet that was used to support the IRS revoking tax exempt status for organizations engaging in racial discrimination post-desegregation and to allow for private individuals to bring suit against private institutions and companies.
To be fair, the odds of this getting through at the federal level are slim. Even if the GOP can push it through Congress, there’s approximately zero chance that President Obama signs the bill into law. On the state level, though, as recent anti-choice and “religious freedom” advances have shown, all bets are off. The only cure to this lunacy, it seems, will be informed voters at the ballot box.