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Bills have been introduced in both houses of the U.S. Congress that would prohibit the Federal government from discriminating against individuals, associations, and businesses that act in accordance with their religious beliefs about marriage.

Yesterday, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, S. 1598 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1598) and H.R. 2802 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2802), which would prohibit any federal agency from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, or certification to any individual, association, or business that acts in accordance with their religious beliefs about marriage.

Sen. Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee

Under the bill, the IRS would be prohibited from removing tax exemptions from schools that refuse to hire teachers based on their marital status, churches that refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages, or bakers who refuse wedding-related services to same-sex couples. It is noted that the proposed legislation does not single out religious institutions, and that it addresses the religious beliefs of businesses which are provided First Amendment Rights according to the 2014 Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby.

Rep. Raúl Labrador

Rep. Raúl Labrador

According to bill sponsor Senator Lee, "You don't need to subscribe to any particular faith, or hold any particular beliefs about marriage, to see the danger of a government forcing innocent people to violate their conscience when they are just trying to make a living, serve their community or educate the next generation."

Critics of the proposed legislation argue that religious beliefs are already protected by the First Amendment and that this bill simply provides a legal basis for businesses to discriminate. , S. 1598 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1598) and H.R. 2802 (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2802),

There are currently 18 co-sponsors in the Senate and 57 co-sponsors in the House. Similar bills introduced in the 113th Congress failed. The current, 114th Congress, bills were introduced just days before the U.S. Supreme Court is anticipated to issue its ruling in a major same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges.

You can track the 114th Congress bills here:

S. 1598 – https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1598

H.R. 2802 –  https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2802


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