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What Is the First Amendment Defense Act?

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By George Khoury, Esq. on November 22, 2016 5:58 AM

The First Amendment Defense Act is a bill before the United States Congress that would serve to protect individuals and businesses from federal action when they deny a person service if they are acting according to religious beliefs about marriage. While this may sound like an important protection to provide, as many critics have explained, the bill actually protects religious discrimination.

This is that notorious bill that would allow a bakeshop to deny a same-sex couple services based on religious beliefs. It could allow same-sex couples, whether married or not, to be denied not just cakes, but also the right to visit their partners in religious hospitals, or receive employer health benefits, all under the guise of religious freedom.

Doesn't FADA Violate the First Amendment?

While the proponents for FADA claim the bill would strengthen First Amendment protections, this is simply untrue. The bill appears to violate First Amendment freedoms of the individuals who would be denied services under the act. The text of the First Amendment reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

By passing an act that allows people to not provide services to others based upon a religious belief would entail congress making a law that prohibits the free exercise of those person's religious beliefs.

Ramifications

FADA could have far reaching consequences for the rights of the LGBT communities across the country. In states like California that have civil rights statutes protecting LGBT individuals, FADA would supersede those laws.

Among the most widespread and immediate ramification would be the revocation of the current federal policy prohibiting LGBT discrimination for all federal contractors. Currently, the bill has been stuck in congress; however, the president-elect has vowed to sign the legislation if it passes.

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