This week, anti-equality Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (S. 1598, H.R. 2802) – legislation that would create a breakdown of government services and runaway litigation by giving federal employees and contractors a right to sue the federal government over opposition to marriage equality. HRC condemned the legislation as reckless, calling on Congress to prove they are not out of touch with the far majority of Americans who support marriage equality.
“Not only is it wrong to promote discrimination with taxpayers’ money, it’s even worse to allow those taxpayer funds to be used to reward discriminatory actions by federal employees,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “We call on members of Congress to oppose this reckless and irresponsible legislation that has nothing to do with the First Amendment and everything to do with taxpayer-funded discrimination. It’s time for Congress to prove they are not out of touch and to stand on the right side of history with the far majority of Americans who support fairness and equality for all Americans.”
The legislation would prohibit any adverse action by the federal government against an individual or organization for discriminatory actions against legally married same-sex couples as long as they claim they are acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. “Adverse action” is broadly defined to include the denial or revocation of a federal tax status or deduction; denial of a federal grant, contract, loan, benefit or employment; or any other act of discrimination. The bill provides individuals and organizations the right to sue the federal government for monetary damages in federal court.
If passed, this legislation would create a breakdown of government services and runaway litigation. It would permit a federal employee, for example, to refuse to process tax returns, visa applications or Social Security checks whenever a same-sex couple's paperwork appears on his or her desk. This legislation would also permit recipients of federal grants and contracts, including those for social services programs like homeless shelters and substance abuse treatment programs, to turn away LGBT people. It allows any of these individuals or groups, or anyone else who believes they have been somehow required by the federal government to approve of married same-sex couples, to file a lawsuit and potentially receive damages from taxpayer money.
A recent poll by Washington Post/ABC found that 61 percent of Americans believe that LGBT couples should be able to get married.