A new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Friday backed by faith groups seeks to extend federal discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity while providing protections for individual and institutional religious objectors to homosexuality.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, introduced the Fairness for All Act amending the Civil Rights Act to include discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and includes laser-precise language protecting the convictions of religious organizations, health care providers and employers.
The bill is seen as the Republican response to the Equality Act, legislation passed by the House in May to codify sexual orientation and gender identity as protected social classes in federal law but does nothing to protect the beliefs of religious objectors.
“They are not mutually exclusive principles. There is enough space where both of those can be accommodated and that is what we tried to do here today. Neither side has to lose in order for the other side to win,” Stewart said at a press conference Friday.
“I think it is better for us in society if the courts don’t have to resolve these issues one at a time, often in conflicting findings over the course of many, many years. It leads to uncertainty and, in too many cases, strife and conflict.”
The bill is co-sponsored by a group of eight Republican lawmakers.
It is the first time that a Republican in either chamber has introduced legislation that would codify discrimination protections for the LGBT community into federal law.
Fairness for All, however, has drawn the ire of prominent conservative legal and lobbying organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council. All three organizations have voiced concerns that the bill “shares many of the dangerous characteristics of the Equality Act” in that it would “codify a radical gender ideology.”
Additionally, some LGBT activist organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign, also oppose the legislation, saying that it provides “substandard protections for LGBTQ people” and has “massive loopholes” that upend “critical federal programs.”
As the Equality Act stands little chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate, proponents feel the compromise legislation has a more realistic chance of bridging the partisan divide and becoming law one day. However, they recognize it could be an uphill battle.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith