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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 8, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 28
Cancel hearing on anti-LGBT bill, 70 human rights groups tell Congress
Section One
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Cancel hearing on anti-LGBT bill, 70 human rights groups tell Congress

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

More than 70 human rights organizations have sent a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, urging him to cancel a hearing on the so-called 'First Amendment Defense Act' (FADA).

Chaffetz scheduled the hearing for July 12, one month to the day after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

'It's outrageous that Congress would hold a hearing on legislation that would make it legal to discriminate against LGBT people with taxpayer dollars one month after the mass shooting that killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay club in Orlando,' said James Esseks, director of the ACLU's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project.

'Congress should instead focus its efforts on protecting people against violence or discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love.'

Signers of the letter to Chaffetz included HRC, GLAD, GLSEN, Pride At Work AFL-CIO, NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and other LGBT, people-of-color, and Jewish human rights groups.

FADA was introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), ostensibly to protect religious colleges from retaliation by the federal government if they refuse to recognize same-sex marriages.

The measure would prohibit the federal government from revoking tax exemptions or refusing to allow tax deductions for charitable donations by or to faith-based institutions or religious individuals who have objections to same-sex marriage.

It would also prohibit the federal government from denying grants, contracts, loans, benefits, or employment to people because of their views on same-sex marriage, and it would require the government to accept the accreditation or licensing of those who believe or act according to such views.

The final provision of FADA, saying the federal government may not 'otherwise discriminate against such person,' is perhaps the most objectionable, because it may allow federal employees to refuse to provide services to same-sex couples without being disciplined by their employer.

'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,' the 70 organizations wrote in their letter to Chaffetz.

'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. A proposal like this only serves to harm a vulnerable community.'

Chaffetz, who is currently holding hearings on the FBI's decision not to pursue charges against Hillary Clinton, did not have a comment on the letter.

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