80 Groups Call on Chaffetz to Cancel Anti-LGBT Hearing Today on Anniversary of Orlando Shooting

Jul 12, 2016
Press Release

80 Groups Call on Chaffetz to Cancel Anti-LGBT Hearing Today on Anniversary of Orlando Shooting


More Than 3,000 Religious Leaders Oppose “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA)


Washington, D.C. (July 12, 2016)—This morning, on the one-month anniversary of the deadly shooting spree at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida that killed 49 people and injured dozens of others, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has scheduled a hearing on anti-LGBT legislation known as the First Amendment Defense Act sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID).  The hearing will take place on the same day that commemorations are occurring throughout the nation, including on the steps of the Capitol.

H.R. 2802 would allow individuals and corporations to discriminate against LBGT individuals, unmarried adults, and their children.  It would prevent the federal government from taking action against any such person or organization, including altering their federal tax treatment, denying grants or contracts, withholding any federal benefits, or other penalties.

Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings issued the following statement:

“The timing of this hearing could not be any more offensive.  We asked the Republicans repeatedly to cancel this hearing, but they are pressing forward anyway because this issue is critical to their aggressive anti-LGBT agenda in Congress.  With everything going on in this country right now, we should be coming together as a nation, not tearing each other apart, which is exactly what this bill does.”

Last year, more than 3,000 faith and clergy leaders across the country sent a letter opposing this legislation.  In recent days, 80 groups and organizations have signed onto additional letters calling on Chairman Chaffetz to cancel the hearing:

Coalition of 71 National Organizations“Rather than focusing on legislation to protect LGBT people and others in America from harm, FADA would permit unprecedented taxpayer funded discrimination against LGBT people.  Among the legislation’s many harms, it could even allow any privately owned business to refuse to let a gay or lesbian employee take time off to care for their sick spouse, in violation of family and medical leave laws—a particularly appalling aspect given the many families currently caring for those who were injured in the Orlando shooting.  … We urge you to cancel the July 12 hearing and instead hold hearings on how best to ensure that no one in this country is subjected to violence or discrimination based on who they are or whom they love.”

Bend the Arc“Bend the Arc opposes the so-called First Amendment Defense Act (H.R. 2802) outright, but it is all the more appalling, disgraceful and offensive that a hearing on this legislation was scheduled for the one month anniversary of the tragic mass murder of 49 LGBTQ people and allies in Orlando, Florida. ... [W]e believe that draconian legislation like this actually undermines the true spirit of religious liberty by favoring one religious viewpoint over another and, in the process, discriminating against LGBTQ people, single mothers and unmarried couples.  Such legislation will open the door to unprecedented taxpayer-funded discrimination, but it will do nothing to support real religious liberty.”

Human Rights Campaign“FADA seeks to foster state sanctioned discrimination under the guise of religious liberty.  The bill’s broad, overreaching language would not only prevent the federal government from combatting harmful discrimination, but could mandate it. ... FADA ignores these existing Constitutional protections and threatens to tip the delicate balance of individual rights and religious liberties that the founders so artfully designed—undermining decades of civil rights protections and leaving some of the most vulnerable members of our society open to unmediated discrimination.  The federal government cannot mandate compassion, but it must not mandate discrimination.”

Center for American Progress:  “Despite a significant lack of public support for new religious exemptions to the law—on both the federal and state levels—some lawmakers have disregarded their constituents and invested their energies into these unnecessary and dangerous laws.  Laws like FADA pose a dangerous threat to true religious liberty, civil rights, comprehensive health care access, and the economic security of women and families, especially the most vulnerable communities among them.  This bill is taking valuable time and attention away from policies that would truly strengthen America’s democracy and the well-being of its citizenry—such as Medicaid expansion; the enforcement of the ACA comprehensive health care mandate; nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans; and the enforcement of religious and civil liberty protections for religious minorities.”

ACLU:  “This kind of sweeping discrimination flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in 2015 that extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples across the country.  In addition, proponents of this legislation claim it is necessary to protect the religious liberty of churches, clergy, and others who oppose marriage equality.  In reality, the First Amendment is already very clear on this point.  Since the founding of our country, no church or member of the clergy has been forced to marry a couple in violation of their faith.  That has not changed since same-sex couples gained the freedom to marry.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State“We strongly oppose FADA because it would sanction discrimination under the guise of religious freedom—harming couples and families, and violating the U.S. Constitution.  When state legislatures across the country considered similar measures, faith communities, businesses, civil rights organizations, legal scholars, and the public strongly voiced the same objections.”

National Center for Lesbian Rights:  “H.R. 2802 seeks to empower those who wish to harm those families that look different from their own, or who differ from a particular vision of family promoted by certain religious tenets. LGBT couples, single mothers, and unmarried couples would become targets of legally sanctioned mistreatment.  We urge this committee to reject this dangerous legislation and instead devote its efforts to ensuring that all people, and all families, are afforded the full and equal protection of our laws.”

National Women’s Law Center:  “This bill is the latest attempt in a prolonged campaign to legislatively sanction discrimination against women, LBGTQ individuals, and others, under the guise of moral or religious beliefs. By prohibiting the federal government from penalizing otherwise unlawful behavior when it is motivated by a belief that marriage should be limited to different-sex couples and that sexual relations should only occur within such a marriage, FADA invites discrimination on the basis of sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

Log Cabin Republicans:  “Log Cabin Republicans has long advocated for a balance between religious liberty and equality for LGBT Americans, and declared that it is possible for people of good will on all sides to come together to reach compromise.  The First Amendment Defense Act does not seek compromise, and instead provides an overly broad framework that will only lead to needless litigation and unintended consequences.”

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund:  “The LGBTQ community is disproportionately targeted by discriminatory laws and harassment, and as a result, suffers increased rates of unemployment, poverty, sexual violence, health and mental health care discrimination, housing instability, and other disparities.  Rather than promote religious freedom, FADA would further compound these systemic disparities and undercut the few protections LGBTQ people have against discrimination.”

114th Congress