Not One, But Three: All Versions Of FADA Sanction Discrimination In The Name Of "Religious Liberty"

  Image by Getty Images

Image by Getty Images

(Update: The FADA hearing ended at 1:00pm. You can find video of the hearing here.)

Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding a hearing on HR 2802, the deceptively named First Amendment Defense Act (FADA).  We’ve been writing about FADA a lot lately because it’s just such a bad bill.

Not surprisingly, the people pushing this legislation have realized just how egregious it is and have floated proposals that might make it better at the margins—but at heart, they still sanction discrimination under the guise of religion.

Here’s a rundown of the three versions of the bill: The one that’s been formally introduced in Congress (HR 2802 or FADA 1.0) and the revised versions (FADA 2.0 and 3.0) that the bill sponsors may discuss at today’s hearing

Before I get to the details, I might as well state the obvious:  all three versions of FADA seek to allow discrimination in the name of religion, and Congress should reject any and all of them.

Any of the three versions of FADA could allow claims by:

  • A taxpayer-funded domestic violence shelter to turn away a woman because she lives with, but is not married to, her abuser.
  • A business with hundreds of employees to refuse to provide its LGBT workers time off to care for a sick spouse even though it is otherwise required by the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • A restaurant to refuse to host a young child’s birthday party once it discovers that his parents aren’t married.

None of these outcomes are consistent with religious freedom: Religious freedom does not justify discrimination and harm to others.

FADA 1.0: HR 2802

HR 2802 is the only version of FADA that has been formally introduced in Congress and it is the topic of today’s hearing. This bill allows those who hold the religious belief that marriage is between “one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage,” to ignore laws that conflict with that belief. Individuals, businesses, healthcare providers, taxpayer-funded entities, and even government employees would all be entitled to use FADA to get around nondiscrimination protections. The result: same-sex couples, unmarried couples, couples in which one person had been married before, single mothers, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage could face discrimination. Even the children of parents who fall within any of these categories could lose nondiscrimination protections they would otherwise have. You can read about the many troubling outcomes in the testimony we submitted for today’s hearing. 

FADA 2.0

Last September, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), the Senate sponsor, posted a new version of his bill online. FADA 2.0 has some small changes: It doesn’t allow publicly traded companies, government employees, or for-profit federal contractors to use the bill to discriminate. That may sound good at first blush, but there are still many people and entities that can discriminate based on their religious beliefs: closely held corporations (e.g., Hobby Lobby), individuals, and taxpayer-funded social service providers.

This proposal also states that healthcare providers cannot use FADA to ignore your spouse’s right to visit you in the hospital or make medical decisions for you. Nor to refuse to provide you services to treat an illness or injury.  This language only highlights that under the introduced version, a healthcare provider can do these unimaginable things. And those are fairly limited circumstances, so even under this revised version, healthcare providers can ignore any other law regarding your healthcare if it conflicts with their view on marriage and sex: providing birth control to a woman who lives with her boyfriend, IVF to a lesbian couple, or the HPV vaccine to an unmarried young man. 

FADA 3.0

Representative Raul Labrador (R-ID), the House sponsor, is also floating a new proposal. FADA 3.0 looks a lot like FADA 2.0, but it makes one more quizzical change: It tries to mask its discrimination by also permitting people who have a religious or moral objection to people of the opposite sex marrying or to “extramarital relations,” to ignore laws that conflict with their beliefs.

Of course, this language is a red herring: can you think of anyone who has a religious objection to marriages between people of the opposite sex? The provision was added to mask the goal of the bill, which remains to discriminate against same-sex couples. Regardless, it would still have a disproportionately negative effect on same-sex couples. 

All three versions of FADA are deeply flawed. Congress should simply reject the idea of FADA altogether and move on. 

You can make your voice heard now— Tell your congressperson to oppose FADA!

Follow Maggie Garrett online at @maggiefgarrett