A prominent tea party-backed Republican House member has
introduced a bill which seeks a religious exemption for opponents of
According to The Washington Post, the bill has bipartisan
support and has attracted roughly 60 co-sponsors.
Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho said that his proposed legislation
seeks to protect groups “from discrimination by the federal
He told the paper that his legislation is a response to the
Supreme Court's decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA), which prohibited federal agencies from recognizing the legal
marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
“Some people looked at overturning it, or doing a constitutional
said. “I looked at the immediate need, which is the protection
of religious institutions and churches, so that they can continue
practicing their religion as they see fit.”
Gay rights groups condemned the bill on Thursday.
“There is no evidence that federal programs have or would
discriminate against people because of their religious beliefs about
marriage,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman with the Human Rights
Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate. “What
is clear, however, is that this legislation would give a free pass to
federal workers, recipients of taxpayer-funded grants and others to
discriminate against lawfully married couples.”
Sainz continued: “This bill will set a very dangerous precedent.
Accommodating religious beliefs on marriage may only be the
beginning. The bill's language makes clear that it should be
interpreted as broadly as possible. Should federal workers and those
who do business with the government get to turn away anybody they do
not like based on religion – unmarried pregnant women? Atheists?
Muslims? Or even another member of their own faith with different
Freedom to Marry, the nation's largest group lobbying for the
legalization of gay nuptials, argued in an emailed statement that the
bill would allow businesses to refuse to provide Family and Medical
Leave Act leave for the spouses of a gay employee to care for a sick
loved one and to deny pension protections to married gay couples,
allow federal employees to refuse to process the tax returns or
Social Security claims of married gay couples and allow individuals
to pick and choose whether they want to comply with federal laws by
invoking religious views.
“This sweeping Trojan Horse proposal would swallow civil rights
laws and subvert constitutional protections, and is a dangerous
'solution' to a non-problem,” Freedom to Marry President Evan
Wolfson said. “Decades of civil rights struggle, and long
experience with both federal and state non-discrimination statutes,
have made clear that we don't need to gut non-discrimination laws to
protect true religious freedom, and neither private religious views
nor prejudice should get a special license to discriminate in the