Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and other Republican Senators have reintroduced a bill that would protect people and businesses that discriminate against LGBT people and people who have sex outside of marriage.
The text of the reintroduced bill has not yet been released but the earlier version of the bill would prohibit the “Federal government” from discriminating against individuals because they act “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” Under this earlier version of the bill, the term “Federal government” would include federal courts as well as all other branches of the federal government.
This bill could, for instance, be construed to prevent the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from suing a business that fired a woman because she had sex outside of wedlock or that fired a gay employee because he got married. Senator Lee maintains that this bill would not prohibit these types of discrimination lawsuits. But if the new bill contains language similar to the old bill and it becomes law, some courts could very possibly find that the bill immunizes employers from these type of discrimination lawsuits. Employers would argue that the EEOC sued them because they acted in accordance with their religious beliefs that unmarried people should not have sex or that LGBT people should not marry. Some courts might accept these arguments based on the broad language of this bill.
But the harm this bill could do would not be limited to the employment context. “It would let private companies and nonprofit government contractors — which includes a significant portion of social services providers — refuse to provide a service or benefit to people because they do not fit their definition of family, from same-sex married couples and their children, a single parent and their child, or an unmarried couple who are living together,” Ian Thompson of the ACLU said about the bill. “Whatever the sponsors of this shameful legislation may say, this is a blatant example of using religion as a justification to discriminate.”
So far, none of Maine’s federal representatives or senators have co-sponsored this bill or the earlier version of it. Hopefully, they will continue to stay away from it.