A group of House Republicans, led by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), has proposed a new bill that would provide a nationwide “license to discriminate” against married same-sex couples. Though Labrador claims the bill protects “religious liberty,” it is nothing less than a blanket invitation to deny benefits to same-sex couples that they are entitled to under law.
According to the draft of the bill (HR 3133), there would be no consequences for any organization or individual that chooses not to recognize a same-sex marriage:
The Federal Government shall not take an adverse action against a person, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
In other words, the bill would create special religious protections only for people who oppose same-sex marriage or premarital sex. Under the guise of “religious freedom,” this bill specifically endorses one particular set of religious beliefs without concern for any others, a pretty clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
The consequences of this legislation would be immense, such that a few individuals could short-circuit the rights of gay and lesbian couples across the country. Given its prudish inclusion of opposition to premarital sex, these consequences could likely apply to many straight couples as well. Here are a few possible examples of the potential for abuse:
- Businesses could refuse to provide leave for an employee to take care of a sick same-sex spouse.
- Federal workers processing tax returns, visa applications, or Social Security filings could refuse to do their job if it meant providing benefits to a same-sex couple.
- Federally funded programs like homeless shelters and substance abuse programs could turn away LGBT people.
- A church-run hospital could refuse to provide visitation privileges to a married same-sex couple without fear of endangering their tax-exempt status.