A prominent tea party-backed Republican House member has introduced a bill which seeks a religious exemption for opponents of gay marriage.

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 government.”

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 amendment,” Labrador 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 views?”

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 public sphere.”