Religious and LGBT Americans have reasonable concerns about their rights. Without a balanced, bipartisan solution that offers civil rights protections for LGBT Americans and preserves the First Amendment rights of religious citizens, we are setting ourselves up for continued conflict and expensive lawsuits.
Judicial decisions are narrowly tailored to the disputes they resolve and cannot provide a broad enough framework for a lasting solution. Resolving these issues in a fair, sustainable way will require congressional leadership.
Yes. In fact, they already have. Leaders from the two communities have worked together for years. One of the best examples of this work is the collaboration between gay-rights groups and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that produced what’s been called the “Utah Solution” in 2015. That legislation has proven to be a lasting, comprehensive framework at the state level for addressing anti-LGBT discrimination and preserving religious liberty.
Religious liberty is our first freedom, but in recent years, people of faith have been forced into protracted, expensive legal battles to exercise this First Amendment right.
Muslim Americans have been denied prayer breaks in their places of work. Faith-based charities face the impossible dilemma of either complying with state laws that violate their core teachings or closing their doors to the sick and vulnerable. Native Americans have been subject to burdensome zoning regulations on lands they own and use to observe their faith.
Religious persons should not be forced to live, work, or serve society in ways that violate their sincerely held beliefs.
It often surprises people, but federal law does not adequately protect the civil rights of LGBT Americans. There are limited protections in some states, which means that LGBT Americans are legally vulnerable depending on where in the U.S. they live and work.
In 29 states, an LGBT person can still be fired, evicted or denied basic services on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity without clear legal recourse.
Without federal anti-discrimination legislation, LGBT Americans lack clear recourse and redress when they are fired, evicted, or refused service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We support many of the provisions in the Equality Act, but as is, the bill is a missed opportunity. It fails to acknowledge that religion can be core part of someone’s identity and address lingering questions about the First Amendment.
If the Equality Act’s protections for LGBT Americans are not paired with First Amendment protections for religious Americans, it will set the stage for continued conflict and legal battles. Our hope is that the Equality Act can serve as a useful starting point on the path toward comprehensive legislation that expands the rights of LGBT Americans in a way that respects those with strong religious convictions.
- Houses of worship, religious charities, and religious individuals will lose the protection of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)
- The Equality Act could turn houses of worship and other religious spaces into places of “public accommodation,” including religious funeral homes and cemeteries
- By radically expanding the definition of “public accommodation,” this legislation raises the question of whether churches, synagogues, mosques, and houses of worship will now be legally defined as public accommodations
- The drafters of the Equality Act have not chosen to provide any clarifying language, which is deeply troubling
- Federal funds will be stripped from thousands of houses of worship, schools, and charities
- Religious adoption and foster care providers would be devastated
- Many religious shelters for people experiencing homelessness or domestic violence would be in violation of federal law
The Fairness for All Act captures the common ground we have found. It provides:
- A policy that protects civil rights of LGBT Americans and carefully details the First Amendment rights of religious citizens.
- The kind of social peace and acceptance of LGBT rights and religious freedom that broad public support can provide.
History proves that when it comes to big societal issues involving the rights of individuals the best path forward is bipartisan legislation. That is our goal.
There is both a strategic and moral motivation behind partnering with faith groups. Strategically: civil rights policies have always been developed with broad bipartisan support. Civil rights shouldn’t be a partisan matter. We want a solution that will not alienate those who have strong religious convictions. Morally: All people should be protected under the Constitution, regardless of their religion, gender, or sexuality – this legislation will capture our common ground.
Because the First Amendment doesn’t fully protect all religious freedoms. And courts make it very hard to win lawsuits under the First Amendment.
In recent years, several states, local governments, or federal entities have passed laws or engaged in activities that erode religious protections for individuals and institutions.
Colleges and universities with a religious mission have faced challenges from accreditors and government entities. Religiously affiliated hospitals and charities have faced the impossible choice of violating the teachings of their faith to comply with state law or closing their doors to the sick, the poor, and the elderly. And religious employees and employers have been forced into long, protracted, expensive legal battles to live and make decisions
Not all of these interests are protected under the First Amendment and those that are could require lengthy and expensive litigation to uphold. Therefore, we need explicit laws to protect these and other important religious interests. Many LGBT Americans agree that these are onerous burdens to place on religious institutions and individuals. Fairness for All codifies the areas of common ground between the LGBT and faith-based communities so religious Americans can practice and observe their faith.
The new definition of “public accommodation” does not apply to businesses with 14 or fewer employees.
- This provision ensures that small business owners can live their faith without threat of economic ruin or loss of their livelihood due to onerous lawsuits.
- This provision also ensures that LGBT Americans have federally protected access to the vast majority of businesses and facilities that are open to the general public and have that access on equal terms with other protected classes, like religion.
- Under FFA, a cake baker with two employees is not considered a “public accommodation” and may refuse to make a custom cake.
- Under FFA, a cake baker with 15 or more employees who refused to make a custom cake could face a federal lawsuit. (Like any other business or person, however, this cake baker may appeal to the constitutional defenses laid out in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision or appeal to RFRA.)
The FFA Act offers a path forward to protecting faith-based adoption in all 50 states. The Act uses the federal spending power to protect the rights of faith-based adoption non-profits in all 50 states and creates an indirect funding system for adoption (similar to Pell grants and federal childcare certificates) that allow faith-based agencies to remain viable in a climate of growing hostility. These provisions were written with heavy input from leaders in the faith-based adoption community.
Transgender men and women use restrooms and locker rooms for the same reasons everyone else does. And when they do, they value safety and privacy just like everyone else.
It’s already a crime to enter a restroom or a locker room to harm someone. With or without this bill, illegal behavior is illegal.
Protections for transgender persons like those found in the Fairness for All Act work.
- For years, over 20 states and more than 200 municipalities already have laws protecting transgender people from discrimination.
The FFA Act explicitly prohibits people from asserting gender identity for any “improper purpose.”
- Nothing in this law weakens existing laws against illegal behavior. Assault and harassment remain illegal.
The FFA Act expands privacy by requiring public schools, public accommodations, and employers to accommodate requests for additional privacy. This will increase the availability of private, single-user facilities for everyone.
Provisions like those in the FFA Act have widespread support from hundreds of organizations across the country.
- More than 250 organizations that do work to prevent and treat survivors of violence support laws that protect transgender people in restrooms and locker rooms.
- These include The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, The National Center for Victims of Crime, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and more.
The FFA Act does not amend Title IX, which is the part of federal civil rights law which governs sex discrimination in education, and which therefore regulates women’s sports.
There are legitimate concerns about sport eligibility by transgender athletes that involve hormones and fair competition, and the right answers probably vary on a case-by-case basis.
Eligibility for women’s sports will continue to be determined by the governing bodies of sports, such as the International Olympic Committee, NCAA, and state and local athletic associations.