A House Republican on Friday introduced
legislation that seeks to prohibit discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity with strong religious exemptions.
Titled the Fairness for All Act, the
bill would prohibit LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, and
public accommodations, much like the Equality Act, which cleared the
House earlier this year.
But unlike the Equality Act, the
Fairness for All Act would exempt religious organizations and small
businesses related to the wedding industry.
Utah Representative Chris Stewart, a
Republican, introduced the legislation.
“Throughout history, there are times
when principles come into conflicts, and often they are conflicting
good principles, both of them with equal value,” Stewart said
during a news conference.
“The job we have before us in our
society today is a good example of that, where we have the principle
of non-discrimination, that every American should be treated fairly
and with respect and with dignity, and at the same time, the
sincerely held belief that religious faith and principles also
matter, and how do we reconcile those two conflicting principles,”
“This is what we are trying to do
with this legislation,” he added.
The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints (LDS) and the Council for Christian Colleges &
Universities have expressed support for the bill.
While the Human Rights Campaign (HRC),
the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, is opposed to the measure,
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian
Rights (NCLR), called the bill “historic.”
“The introduction of this historic
bill marks the first time that conservative religious organizations
and leaders have supported comprehensive federal protections for
LGBTQ people,” Minter said. “While the details of the bill
require more careful consideration, it marks an important milestone
in the growing national support for the equality and dignity of LGBTQ
In a statement, the White House
signaled its openness to the Fairness for All Act.