SHAME: On Anniversary of Orlando Tragedy, House Republicans Hold Hearing Anti-LGBTQ Bill

Brandon Lorenz

HRC denounced House Republican leaders for holding a hearing on a deeply discriminatory anti-LGBTQ bill on the one-month anniversary of the horrific attack in Orlando.  The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding a hearing on the so-called "First Amendment Defense Act" (FADA) -- radical legislation backed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that would sanction unprecedented taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ people.

“Members of Congress should hang their heads in shame for attempting to advance this reckless and irresponsible bill that embraces taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ people,” said HRC Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. “On any given day, this hearing would be wrong but it is especially deplorable to be considering this legislation on a day that marks just one month since our nation’s deadliest mass shooting left 49 families and friends of LGBTQ people and allies in mourning. Meanwhile, these same House leaders refuse to hold hearings on the Equality Act, which would provide comprehensive non-discrimination protections to protect LGBTQ people, or on addressing common-sense gun violence prevention measures.”

FADA is tantamount to state-sanctioned discrimination. On its face, this legislation purports to prohibit discrimination by the federal government based on individual beliefs about marriage between loving, same-sex couples. In reality, it would allow individuals, many businesses, and nonprofit organizations -- even nonprofit organizations and businesses contracting with the federal government -- to circumvent critical federal protections designed to protect LGBTQ families from harmful discrimination.

The U.S. Supreme Court decisions in U.S. v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, guarantee that same-sex married couples have access to all federal spousal benefits regardless of where they live. FADA would allow individual businesses to run roughshod over the civil rights of these couples, denying them the spousal benefits they are entitled to under the law. It would allow individuals and businesses receiving  taxpayer dollars to use the guise of “personal beliefs” to ignore the few federal policies that protect LGBTQ people.

Trump wrote in December, “If Congress considers the First Amendment Defense Act a priority, then I will do all I can to make sure it comes to my desk for signatures and enactment.”

Winterhof continued, “This hearing on FADA is not an exercise. It’s a frightening preview of how LGBTQ people would be targeted for discrimination in our federal government if Donald Trump is elected.”

HRC previously joined more than 50 national organizations and 20 local and state organizations in a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz urging him to cancel the hearing.

Among FADA’s many harms, it could even allow any privately-owned business to refuse to allow an employee take time off to care for their same-sex spouse, in violation of family and medical leave laws -- and particularly appalling given the many families currently caring for those injured in the Orlando shooting.

A similar anti-LGBTQ measure that was signed into law in Mississippi was blocked last month by a federal judge  who ruled it was a violation of both the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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