As state legislators return to work this month, we’re monitoring newly introduced “religious freedom” bills around the country that could harm our neighbors. As a refresher, we thought we would review the different types of “religious freedom” legislation we expect to see. First up, First Amendment Defense Acts, five of which have already been introduced in the states.
These bills are designed to generally allow individuals, private businesses, healthcare providers, and taxpayer-funded social service providers (and sometimes even government employees) to ignore laws that conflict with their religious beliefs about marriage. Though the details vary by state, all the FADAs have the same big goal: permitting individuals, associations, and even for-profit corporations to discriminate against anyone who doesn’t abide by their religious views about marriage. That could include same-sex couples, unmarried couples, people who are divorced or remarried, single mothers, those who have had sex outside of marriage, and others. For example, a taxpayer-funded homeless shelter or food bank could refuse to serve a same-sex couple or single mother in need, or a landlord could refuse to rent to an unmarried couple or a person who’s divorced.
Last year, with our coalition partners, we were able to stop FADAs, with one notable exception: Mississippi. These bill generated enormous controversy— garnering vetoes, filibusters, boycott threats, and widespread condemnation. President Obama spoke out against the Mississippi law, stating that it was “wrong and should be overturned,” and three federal agencies announced they were reviewing it. In fact, the Mississippi law was so extreme that U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves barred the state from enforcing it even before it could go into effect. The governor is fighting to keep the discriminatory measure and has appealed this decision. AU has joined the fight in court, filing an amicus brief opposing the anti-LGBTQ law.
Although, up to this point, FADAs have proven to be a losing battle for state lawmakers, we expect to see this type of legislation introduced across the nation. We’re ready for them. Using our 2017 State Legislation Tracker, we will monitor state FADAs and other dangerous “religious freedom” bills, and provide up-to-date information about new bills, the status of legislation, analysis, letters to legislators, blog posts, action alerts, and more. Check back every Tuesday and Friday for updates. Looking for real-time information? You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and share our information far and wide.
Although some lawmakers want allow religious beliefs to be used as an excuse to deny healthcare, refuse to provide services, and ignore laws protecting Americans from discrimination and abuse, we won’t back down. We hope that you will join us in our fight to protect our neighbors.