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In an effort to strike a compromise between religious freedom and LGBT discrimination concerns, a group of lawmakers led by Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, put forward the “Fairness for All Act” on Friday. Some religious liberty proponents, however, are crying foul over the details of the legislation.
So what does the bill do?
In Stewart’s words, the legislation “allows us to settle the legal questions and get back to the business of loving our neighbors.” In brief, the legislation tries to create compromise by elevating sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes under the 1964 Civil Rights Act while simultaneously creating targeted carve-outs with the intention of protecting the conscience rights of those whose beliefs conflict with modern sexual and gender ideologies.
In the news release introducing the legislation, Stewart’s office points out multiple groups that support the legislation, including the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, among others.
So what’s the problem? Some religious liberty advocates find the bill’s conscience protections are insufficient and that the changes to federal civil rights law create some serious problems. Rather than a compromise, American Principles Project executive director Terry Schilling says that the bill is “a near total surrender to progressive extremists.”
“Like the Democrats’ so-called ‘Equality Act’ which it is seeking to replace, FFA would upend American society by radically altering civil rights law,” Schilling explains. “And despite including some exemptions, it would still seriously endanger the conscience rights of Americans seeking to live by their faith, for whom relatively few protections are offered.”
“Don’t think the carve outs for religious institutions in ‘Fairness for All’ would be sufficient or permanent,” warned Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. “The LGBT lobby has demonstrated a rapacious desire to be not only tolerated but affirmed. Already politicians have suggested removing the tax-exempt status of religious institutions that do not affirm LGBT lifestyles – one of the few religious freedom protections currently in Fairness for All. This attempt at compromise will not satisfy their demands.”
In a post at the Daily Signal, the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson points out multiple problems that the bill as written creates for Americans’ conscience rights and argues the compromise isn’t worth allowing the federal government “to use our civil rights laws as a sword to punish citizens who dissent from the reigning sexual orthodoxy.”
“In the midst of the redefinitions of marriage, sex, and gender, all Americans—wherever they fall on the political spectrum and whether they are religious, secular, or agnostic—should join the effort to find ways to coexist peacefully,” Anderson concludes. “Fairness for All would not achieve this goal. Instead, it would treat reasonable disagreement as if it were discrimination, impose sexual and gender ideology, and penalize those who dissent.”