58 House Republicans Introduce Bill Banning "Adverse Action" Against Opponents Of Same-Sex Marriage
“Adverse actions” include action by the IRS to strip a group of favorable tax treatment, like tax-exempt status. But it also includes actions related to employment, accreditation, grants, contracts, or benefits otherwise available under federal law. And it broadly prohibits “discrimination” against those who oppose same-sex marriage and non-marital sex. “Person” includes nonprofit and for-profit corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies. MARFA raises very interesting questions of statutory construction, public policy, antidiscrimination law, and potential applications and burdens for married same-sex couples. It also raises potential Establishment Clause issues in its partiality toward certain religious doctrines (i.e., applying only to those who oppose, rather than favor, same-sex marriage for religious reasons). After United States v. Windsor, there are also potential Equal Protection problems in MARFA’s targeted protection of acts motivated by opposition to same-sex marriage.NOM, of course, is on board.
“This is a critical piece of legislation to protect religious liberty as a cornerstone of our country and deserves our full support,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “Efforts to redefine marriage pose a direct threat to the free exercise of religion. This legislation would protect the right of organizations to communicate their views about marriage without threat that the tax code will be used to punish them. We applaud Congressman Labrador and his colleagues for their leadership on this important issue.”The Human Right Campaign is pissed.
The purpose of the legislation introduced today is simply to let federal employees, contractors and grantees refuse to do their jobs or fulfill the terms of their taxpayer-funded contracts because they have a particular religious view about certain lawfully-married couples – and then to sue the federal government for damages if they don’t get their way. For example, if passed, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would permit a federal worker processing tax returns, approving visa applications or reviewing Social Security applications to walk away from their responsibilities whenever a same-sex couple's paperwork appeared on his or her desk. It would also allow a federally-funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people. Despite the cosponsors claims, there is no evidence that federal programs have or would discriminate against individuals because of their religious beliefs about marriage. Protections against discrimination based on religious belief are explicitly and robustly provided under the First Amendment and federal nondiscrimination statutes.RELATED: Labrador was elected to his first term in 2010 with the support of the Tea Party and the Mormon Church.
UPDATE: The bill actually has 60 cosponsors as it is being supported by two Democrats: Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL).
UPDATE II: Labrador writes on his US House website.
“Regardless of your ideology, we can all agree about the importance of religious liberty in America,” said Rep. Labrador. “Our bill will protect freedom of conscience for those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. As President Obama said, ‘Americans hold a wide range of views’ on marriage and ‘maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom’ is ‘vital.’ We agree. Our bill will ensure tolerance for individuals and organizations that affirm traditional marriage, protecting them from adverse federal action. I’m proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this bill, and will strongly advocate for its passage.”UPDATE III: The ACLU reacts via press release.
“Religious liberty is a fundamental American value. It guarantees us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs, but it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others,” said Ian Thompson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative representative. “The proponents of this legislation seek to reincarnate DOMA and, in doing so, perpetuate discrimination against lawfully married same-sex couples and their children. Gay and lesbian couples raise children, vote, and pay taxes just the same as everyone else, but this legislation would allow these couples to be treated differently based on who they are, giving a free pass to federal workers, recipients of taxpayer-funded grants and contracts, and others to discriminate against lawfully married couples.”