National Edition

Bill would protect gay marriage opponents from discrimination claims

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24 2013 9:35 p.m. MDT

Opponents call the proposal a license to discriminate and an attempt to bring back the federal Defense of Marriage Act that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

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The sponsor of a bill in Congress that would protect organizations and individuals that don't recognize same-sex marriage from federal anti-discrimination penalties says the measure is necessary to protect religious freedom.

Opponents call the proposal a license to discriminate and an attempt to bring back the federal Defense of Marriage Act that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The responses came last week when Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, introduced the "Marriage and Religious Freedom Act."

He acknowledged that the bill was inspired by the high court ruling in June, which found the federal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman unconstitutional, the Washington Times reported.

"The bill does not address state tax rules or laws, and therefore would not have affected, for example, recent state actions against a New Mexico photographer or the Oregon bakery that each refused to participate in gay marriages," wrote the Washington Times.

Under Labrador’s bill, no institution could lose its federal tax-exempt status because it promotes traditional marriage, according to Religion News Service reported. Neither could the federal government deny a grant, contract or employment to a person or institution based on their belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

"The National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Concerned Women for America and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are also supporting Labrador’s bill," RNS reported.

Labrador, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said there aren't any cases of religious groups or nonprofits being subject to federal penalties based on their views or actions against a same-sex marriage.

But he cited a California bill that would revoke the tax-exempt status of the Boy Scouts unless they permit gay people to become Scout leaders, according to the Washington Post. He also cited comments by Democratic lawmakers, who have said that groups that don't recognize gay marriages should lose their tax-exempt status.

“I see it coming," Labrador said. "It’s already happening at the state level and you’re hearing rhetoric at the federal level."

But supporters of same-sex marriage say religious beliefs and exercise are already protected under First Amendment and that the real intent of the bill is to let anyone discriminate against gay couples.

"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,” Allison Herwitt, Human Rights Campaign legislative director, told LGBT Weekly.

The bill has 62 co-sponsors, including two Democrats — North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre and Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, according to the Daily Caller.

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @deseretbrown

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