First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) Would Be ‘Devastating’ for LGBTQ Americans

 Earlier this month, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, through his spokesperson said they plan to reintroduce an embattled bill that barely gained a House hearing in 2015. But this time around, they said, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) was likely to succeed due to a Republican-controlled House and the backing of President-Elect Donald Trump.
fadawould prohibit the federal government from taking “discriminatory action” against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: “(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
Ironically, the language of the bill position the right to discriminate against one class of Americans as a “first amendment” right, and bans the government from taking any form of action to curb such discrimination—including withholding federal funds from institutions that discriminate. FADA allows individuals and businesses to sue the federal government for interfering in their right to discriminate against LGBTQ people and would mandate the Attorney General defend the businesses.

FADA was first filed in the House and Senate in 2015, but was met with protests from Democrats and resulted in just one House hearing amid concerns that Obama would veto the bill. It is currently co-sponsored by 171 House Republicans and just one Democrat (Daniel Lipinski of Illinois.)

State-level legislation similar to FADA has failed in recent years, usually resulting from lawsuits and nationwide boycotts. When Vice President-elect Mike Pence passed a “religious freedom” bill as governor of Indiana in March 2015, it was met with protests, financial losses from businesses that pulled operations from the state. It ultimately required an amendment issued in April to protect LGBTQ people from the bill’s discrimination.

Mississippi’s HB 1523 is nearly identical to FADA. The state law, passed in 2016 but quickly blocked by a judge, allows people and businesses in the state to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on three sets of religious beliefs: “Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage, and male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

A lawsuit brought by Mississippi religious leaders alleges the state law actually violates religious freedom by determining that religious belief necessitates anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The group of ordained ministers suing the state said in the lawsuit, Barber v. Bryant, that Mississippi violates its right to freedom of religion “because persons who hold contrary religious beliefs are unprotected—the State has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others.”

Barber v. Bryant is currently at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal trial court ruled HB 1523 violates the federal Equal Protection and Establishment Clauses. Pizer said the case stands as an example of the legal explosion that would occur in reaction to FADA.

“If Congress were to pass the federal FADA as currently written, and the next president were to sign it into law, I’m confident heads would spin at how fast the constitutional challenges would fly into court,” Pizer said, adding “we’re likely to have a great many allies because these attempts to misuse religion for discrimination offend enormous numbers of Americans who cherish both religious liberty and equality for all.”

Advertisements

Op-Ed: My Supreme Court Marriage Rally Transphobic Experience From Hell

The United for Marriage Equality Rally held at the U.S. Supreme Court last month was supposed to be about bringing the LGBTQ community together in support of the Proposition 8 California plaintiffs and Edie Windsor, the principal plaintiff in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case that was being heard by the highest court in the land.

But that important gathering — one in which I enthusiastically joined as an American and a New Yorker, and as someone who openly identifies as a bisexual transman — was spoiled for me because of aggressive, transphobic comments and actions directed at me by a series of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) staff members during the rally that I had been so excited to join.

While standing with GetEQUAL activists, I became a target by HRC staff member Karin Quimby, who told me to remove the Trans Pride flag I was holding near the rally stage.

Interestingly, she did not initially know that the flag I was holding was a Trans Pride flag.

Ms. Quimby asked me, aggressively, “What flag is this?” When I told her it was the Trans Pride Flag she said, “This [rally] is about marriage equality, this is not about the trans community.”

Moments later she came back to where I was standing and continued, “You know what, you guys need to focus on what you need to do. We [HRC] are the organization that makes things happen.”

Two more times I was approached by HRC staff members who asked me to remove the flag.

I was shocked by these actions and comments and asked those around me if they could believe what had just been said to me. The reason for us being at the Supreme Court was to show our unity toward the ultimate goal of marriage equality for all people and certainly not to exclude Trans people.

I decided to remain resolute, to stand my ground and not take the flag down, and I stood there for the reminder of the rally.

After additional transphobic comments were uttered toward me by an unidentified videographer, who threatened to burn the Trans flag for reasons that were unclear to me, I decided to hand off the flag to C.d Kirven from GetEQUAL, because I felt threatened and was having considerable emotional difficulty handling such a hostile environment directed at me for being a Transman.

As a victim of a previous hate crime, I was very frightened about what could happen and I didn’t feel protected or safe in this situation.

Fortunately, United for Marriage Equality issued a statement apologizing for unidentified coalition partners who attacked trans people and asked undocumented queer speakers to not come out as “undocmented” during their remarks at the rally.

Subsequently, I received a phone call “apology” from Karin Quimby the weekend after the rally and later received an email apology from HRC, after they had publicly denied that the Trans flag incident had occurred. I received a second communication on Facebook messenger from Karin Quimby who asked me if “I would make this all stop.”

Because of this wrenching experience, I want steps taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again, especially when we come back together as a community in June when the Supreme Court decisions on Proposition 8 and DOMA cases are expected to be announced.

Because of these events, and speaking for myself and for some other trans members of the LGBTQ community, we want the following steps taken by the HRC to show their commitment to trans issues:

  • An HRC pledge to support Trans related issues comprehensively throughout its organizational goals and objectives, including a commitment to hire trans staff members for a more diverse workforce at the country’s largest LGBT advocacy organization;
  • Commit to supporting anti-trans discrimination at the federal level and support passage of a gender identity inclusive ENDA bill in Congress;
  • HRC must support local efforts across the country to defeat anti-trans legislation including the Arizona Anti-Trans Bathroom bill and support efforts of the LGBTQ community of New York to pass the New York State Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA);
  • Invite the Trans community to be official participants in future rallies and be included in the planning of future organized rallies and related activities.

Karin Quimby is apparently at it again, in Jacksonville FL. Why is  the HRC allowing her to continue her “work” on trans* issues. When we all know she has no respect for people who identify as trans*