Friday, July 17, 2015

A Month Later - an Update on the National License-to-Discriminate Act


One month has elapsed since the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (S.1598 and H.R.2802) was introduced in both houses of Congress. I have written before about this bill. While portrayed as some form of protection for people who believe that marriage is restricted to the union of a man and a woman, the reality is that it would permit wholesale discrimination by anyone who disapproves of gay people. The intent of the bill is to permit discrimination. The Christian 83% majority does not require special rights.

In the House, the bill has picked up 61 cosponsors over the last 30 days. That brings the total to (a nothing spectacular) 130; 129 GOPers and one lone Democrat, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois. Lipinski, a conservative Catholic, is also co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

In the Senate the bill has picked up another 14 cosponsors for a total of 36, all Republicans — mostly from Dixie. The Senate requires 67 votes to override President Obama's certain veto in the unlikely event that the bill were to pass.

The bottom line is that this thing isn't going anywhere. I expect Secretary Clinton to succeed President Obama. Religious conservatives will be required to manufacture many more “victims” than a handful of bakers and a florist before anyone will take this seriously. In the interim it might serve as a raison d'ĂȘtre for National Organization for Marriage. At some point even NOM's ardent supporters will realize that NOM has little effect on the passage of the bill, one way or the other. Should sponsors reintroduce the bill in the 2017 session will NOM even continue to exist?

The fact that this bill is DOA makes it no less offensive. There is no federal statute that protect LGBT citizens from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. In 28 states it is perfectly legal to discriminate against LGBT citizens. Some of these states are pushing so-called religious freedom bills that would nullify protections offered in some municipalities.

Rather than protecting the majority with special rights we need to have a serious discussion about why it is lawful to dismiss, refuse to hire or fail to promote an individual based upon their sexual orientation or sexual identity. We all know about teachers getting fired from Catholic schools after marrying. In contrast, Jesuit universities seem to be able to prosper without discriminating against LGBT employees (faculty and staff).

The conservative Christians are always forecasting doom. The purpose of the Matthew Shepard Act was to lock up their ministers. The military would disintegrate with the repeal of DADT. Marriage equality was an end-of-world development. None of these things ever happen. Why do these self-righteous and unbalanced people still have an influential voice in the formulation of public policy? Our Constitution offers the perfect balance between the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. Why have we permitted to scales to tip over with insult after insult to our secular core?

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