Senators Introduce Dangerous “Religious Freedom” Bill
December 13, 2013 by Brian Moulton, Legal Director
Yesterday, a group of conservative Senators led by Utah Republican Mike Lee introduced the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, joining their House colleagues in sponsoring dangerous legislation couched as protecting religious liberty. As we shared when the House bill was introduced by Congressman Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican, this bill permits federal workers, as well as recipients of federal grants and contracts, to refuse to serve married same-sex couples based on their personal religious beliefs about marriage, and gives anyone who believes he or she has faced discrimination because of religious convictions about same-sex marriage the right to sue the federal government for monetary damages.
Senator Lee suggests that the “fundamental civil liberties” of opponents of marriage equality are at risk, and this legislation is necessary to protect them. But this legislation goes far beyond affirming that individuals have a right to hold and express their religious beliefs, including about marriage – something already guaranteed by the First Amendment. Instead, it gives people who work for the federal government or receive federal money to run programs or provide services a free pass to discriminate against same-sex couples.
This legislation is unnecessary and dangerous. And, as a poll conducted this summer by HRC and Third Way shows, it is completely out of step with what the American people believe: seventy percent think that a government official should have to follow the law and treat all people fairly, including married same-sex couples.