Saturday, July 18, 2015

Congressional Republicans Setting Sights on Same-Sex Marriage Law

With all of the problems facing America one would think that pandering and self-prostituting one self to hate filled religious extremists would be far down the priority list.  But not so with Congressional Republicans who seem to have their sights set on passing some form of license to discriminate law to pander to knucle dragging, spittle flecked Christofascists.  Never mind that the effort is an affront to the concept of religious freedom envisioned by the Founding Fathers.  Nope, it's all about granting special rights to a class of people who reject science, equality, and modernity itself.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the GOP forces of darkness at work.  Here are excerpts:
Legislation granting protections for tax-exempt organizations and individuals objecting to same-sex marriage on religious or moral grounds is gathering momentum in the House. The bills, drafted by Representative Raúl R. Labrador, Republican of Idaho, and Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, already have 130 co-sponsors. On Thursday, the Republican Study Committee, the largest, most organized group of conservatives in the House, demanded a vote.

“All religious Americans deserve assurance that they can carry out their conscience without a federal government crackdown,” said Representative Bill Flores, Republican of Texas and the committee’s chairman.

At the same time, wary Republican moderates have quietly drafted a novel alternative that would actually expand legal protections for gay men and lesbians. Their legislation would narrow the scope of protection offered to groups declining services to same-sex couples seeking to marry.

The brewing dispute is coming at a delicate time for the Republican Party. Donald J. Trump, the billionaire businessman seeking the Republican nomination for president, has stirred up Hispanic voters with the anti-Mexican and illegal immigration diatribes he has delivered since beginning his campaign.

Republican leaders have found themselves once again caught in a wedge between the conservative sentiments of the majority of their conference and the more liberal social trends in the nation at large. Asked about the First Amendment Defense Act, which is the name of the bill to protect tax-exempt organizations and individuals objecting to same-sex marriage on religious grounds, House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio on Thursday was careful not to dismiss it even as he declined to embrace it.

The bill proposed by moderates, though, would attach two provisions expanding protections long-sought by gay rights groups: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which outlaws workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, and an amendment to the federal Fair Housing Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected characteristics of housing seekers.

“This opens up a can of worms, and Congress needs to show it can do two things at once: protect religious freedoms and provide legal protections for nondiscrimination,” Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, said Friday.

Mr. Dent told his colleagues in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that they were risking the same protests from business leaders and other gay rights supporters that Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana prompted in March when he signed legislation allowing businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples.

His appeal was greeted with silence, he said, but “the message was delivered.”  “I would really hate to see the Indiana nightmare turn into a national debacle,” he said.

At the same time, Republican leaders made it clear they saw a need for a legislative response to the court’s action. Without legal protection, Republicans fear religious broadcasters could lose their federal licenses if they do not grant same-sex marriage benefits to employees. Faith-based charities like World Vision, which rely on government grants, could face pressure . . 

“The right to believe is fundamental. The right to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate is not,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said Friday.

The moderate Republican alternative would draw religious protections narrowly, ensuring that they shielded religious nonprofit organizations from threats to their tax-exempt status and other federal benefits because of their adherence to heterosexual marriage, according to a one-page description of the legislation circulating in the House.

HRC has it right: if these organizations want to discriminate, they have a simple option - stop taking taxpayer money.   If their operations cannot survive without government funding, then so be it. 

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