The bill, introduced by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), is actually called the “Marriage And Religious Freedom Act” (MARFA), but let’s call a spade a spade. This bill is essentially an attempt to allow one group a special dispensation (anti-gay religious people) to discriminate against LGBT people:
Sixty members of the U.S. House of Representatives (58 Republicans and 2 Democrats) have introduced legislation, the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” (MARFA), that would prohibit any “adverse action” by the federal government against any ”person” who acts on the basis of a religious belief opposing same-sex marriage or opposing sexual relations outside of opposite-sex marriages. “Adverse actions” include action by the IRS to strip a group of favorable tax treatment, like tax-exempt status. But it also includes actions related to employment, accreditation, grants, contracts, or benefits otherwise available under federal law. And it broadly prohibits “discrimination” against those who oppose same-sex marriage and non-marital sex. “Person” includes nonprofit and for-profit corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies.
MARFA raises very interesting questions of statutory construction, public policy, antidiscrimination law, and potential applications and burdens for married same-sex couples. It also raises potential Establishment Clause issues in its partiality toward certain religious doctrines (i.e., applying only to those who oppose, rather than favor, same-sex marriage for religious reasons). After United States v. Windsor, there are also potential Equal Protection problems in MARFA’s targeted protection of acts motivated by opposition to same-sex marriage.
Joe posted the reaction from the Human Rights Campaign:
The purpose of the legislation introduced today is simply to let federal employees, contractors and grantees refuse to do their jobs or fulfill the terms of their taxpayer-funded contracts because they have a particular religious view about certain lawfully-married couples – and then to sue the federal government for damages if they don’t get their way. For example, if passed, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would permit a federal worker processing tax returns, approving visa applications or reviewing Social Security applications to walk away from their responsibilities whenever a same-sex couple’s paperwork appeared on his or her desk. It would also allow a federally-funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people. Despite the cosponsors claims, there is no evidence that federal programs have or would discriminate against individuals because of their religious beliefs about marriage. Protections against discrimination based on religious belief are explicitly and robustly provided under the First Amendment and federal nondiscrimination statutes.
It’s the same old story. Anti-gay fundamentalists continue to erroneously think that they are the only “real Americans,” and that the rest of us are simply guests who should follow their rules. They have zero respect for the way the United States actually works.