Six of the Republican candidates vying for the presidency have signed a pledge promising to support legislation during their first 100 days in the White House that would use the guise of “religious liberty” to give individuals and businesses the right to openly discriminate against LGBT people.
Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee vowed to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), legislation that would prohibit the federal government from stopping discrimination by people or businesses that believe “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.”
The pledge is supported by three conservative groups: the American Principles Project, Heritage Action for America, and Family Research Council Action.
“It has become clear that the First Amendment Defense Act is rapidly becoming a signature issue that unifies the GOP,” Maggie Gallagher, Senior Fellow at American Principles Project, said in the group’s statement announcing the pledge. “Three out of the four top contenders for the nomination — Carson, Cruz, and Rubio — have pledged to prioritize passing FADA in their first 100 days of office. Additionally, Bush, Graham, Paul, and now for the first time, Donald Trump, have publicly expressed support for FADA.”
Gallagher added that a Republican win in 2016 could mean that FADA becomes reality. “Real, concrete protections for gay marriage dissenters appear to be just one election victory away,” she said.
But instead of protecting “gay marriage dissenters,” FADA gives people and businesses license to openly discriminate against same sex couples. If it were to pass, it would mean that government workers could refuse to perform their duties, and businesses and organizations — including those that operate with the support of taxpayer dollars — would be free to discriminate. The American Civil Liberties Union has called it “a Pandora’s Box of taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their children.”
The legislation was previously introduced by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) under the moniker of the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.” As the Family Research Council explained when it endorsed the bill in June, anybody who refuses to recognize a same-sex couple’s marriage would be immune to any penalization by the government.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) has endorsed FADA, but it’s unlikely that the legislation would pass Congress and make it to the president’s desk.
A number of other conservative groups have also been eager to get the GOP candidates to sign anti-gay pledges. Earlier this year, the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT group, issued a pledge that it asked Republican presidential candidates to sign, affirming their wholehearted opposition to marriage equality and gay rights generally. In August, only four of the then 17 candidates signed their names — Cruz, Santorum, Carson, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has since dropped out of the race.