In wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage, Republicans are pushing legislation that aims to protect Americans who oppose these unions on religious grounds. But critics say the language is so broad, the bill creates a license to discriminate that would let employers fire women for getting pregnant outside of wedlock.
The First Amendment Defense Act prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person — which is defined to include for-profit corporations — acting in accordance with a religious belief that favors so-called traditional marriage. This means the feds can’t revoke a nonprofit’s tax-exempt status or end a company’s federal contract over this issue.
The bill specifically protects those who believe that marriage is between “one man and one woman” or that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” Ian Thompson, a legislative representative at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that in addition to targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the bill “clearly encompasses discrimination against single mothers” and would hobble the ability of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal body that protects women from sex-based discrimination, to act.
Lauren Nelson of the Friendly Atheist points out that “[e]ven if the GOP can push it through Congress, there’s approximately zero chance that President Obama signs the bill into law.” That’s undoubtedly true, and explains why the story has elicited relatively little reaction apart from the usual Republicans-are-stupid-and-evil commentary.
But Nelson missteps when she suggests that state-level versions of this law are likely to succeed because anti-abortion state laws have succeeded. In fact, the same groups that have pushed hard for state-level pro-life laws are also staunch opponents of pregnancy discrimination.
That became abundantly evident last year, when the Supreme Court heard Young v. UPS. Numerous pro-life organizations petitioned the Supreme Court to rule in favor of strong workplace protections for pregnant mothers. Among them? Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List, two of the biggest forces for pro-life state legislation.
If opponents of same-sex marriage want to pass anything like the First Amendment Defense Act at the state level, they have two choices: either narrow the language considerably, or go up against the heavyweights of the pro-life movement. And so continues the divorce.