Thursday, June 25, 2015

A federal License-To-Discriminate bill - and then some


The text of HR 2802 (the Senate version is S.1598) is now available and it comes as no surprise that the so-called First Amendment Defense Act would create a federal license to discriminate. This might make it out of committee but it sure wouldn't pass with veto-proof majorities in both houses and President Obama is not going to sign this bill.

Nevertheless it is instructive to see what the religious conservatives are up to. The bill and its companion in the Senate were introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador and Sen. Mike Lee respectively — both Mormons. It has had the strong support of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone in particular.

To fully appreciate this bill you first have to go to the end:
PERSON.—The term ‘‘person’’ means a person as defined in section 1 of title 1, United States Code, and includes any such person regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, and regardless of for-profit or nonprofit status.
Section 1 of title 1 of US Code defines a person to include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals. Therefore, “person” means any individual or entity.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction 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.
That last part means that this applies to any individual or organization that disapproves of gay people. So what can't the federal government do, according to this bill:
(1) alter in any way the Federal tax treatment of, or cause any tax, penalty, or payment to be assessed against, or deny, delay, or revoke an exemption from taxation under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 of, any person referred to in subsection (a);
The potential problem, of course, is that an organization that happens to oppose gay rights could claim that they were targeted if they lost their tax exempt status for other reasons.
(2) disallow a deduction for Federal tax purposes of any charitable contribution made to or by such person; 
NOM seems to get a carve-out. Since this bill, as written, supersedes any other provision of federal law, it would have the effect of making contributions to a political organization – like National Organization for Marriage – tax deductible. NOM, a 501(c)4 is currently tax exempt but deductions are not tax deductible. Funny how that works out.
(3) withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, or otherwise deny any Federal grant, contract, sub-contract, cooperative agreement, loan, license, certification, accreditation, employment, or other similar position or status from or to such person;
This would effectively nullify the executive order requiring federal contractors not to discriminate. This would also permit a member of the armed forces to harass and otherwise act adversely to a gay service member. Officers could no longer be held accountable for their homophobia and their treatment of gay troops.
(4) withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, or otherwise deny any benefit under a Federal benefit program from or to such person; or
(5) otherwise discriminate against such person.
That's pretty much the kitchen sink. Then there is this whole section that is rather interesting:
(c) ACCREDITATION; LICENSURE; CERTIFICATION.— The Federal Government shall consider accredited, licensed, or certified for purposes of Federal law any person that would be accredited, licensed, or certified, respectively, for such purposes but for a determination against such person wholly or partially on the basis that the person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction 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.
The federal government does not accredit post-secondary educational institutions. The government relies on private accrediting agencies approved by the Department of Education to evaluate institutions initially and then regularly. According to this provision the government would be required to supersede adverse decisions made by an accreditor if, in part, the determination was based upon discrimination which might be in violation of state or local law.

In other words, ABC College might lose its accreditation because of academic review, administrative capability or financial review. However, if the accrediting report also contained a paragraph that the institution lacked LGBT diversity, then the federal government would become the institution's accrediting agency and the institution would remain eligible to receive federal financial aid.

Most importantly, current accreditation standards universally require colleges to be in compliance with all state and local laws. This bill would eliminate the need to comply with anti-discrimination ordinances.

My junior senator (Marco Rubio) is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of this idiocy. I am going to send him a fax today once I am sure that I have the discipline to refrain from “Dear Dummy:”

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