One month ago Tuesday, a man walked into Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and murdered 49 people with a legally purchased firearm. His motivation was, at least in part, explicitly homophobic. Congressional Republicans blocked subsequent attempts to limit access to weapons of war like the one that slaughtered the victims in Pulse. Now, on the one-month anniversary of the shooting, the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding hearings on a vicious bill that would single out, demean, and disadvantage LGBTQ people under federal law.
The measure, misleadingly called the First Amendment Defense Act, is one of the most atrocious faux religious liberty bills yet proposed. As I explained last year, FADA is designed to legalize discrimination against gay, bisexual, and trans people—as well as anyone who has sex outside of marriage:
[FADA] would instantly revoke every federal gay rights measure ever passed and pre-emptively nullify any future measures. President Obama’s LGBT nondiscrimination order would be entirely undermined: Federal contractors would only need assert that gay sex and gay marriage violate their “moral convictions,” and they could fire gay employees with impunity. Federal grantees, such as homeless shelters and drug treatment programs, could turn away gay people at the door. Businesses could refuse to let gay employees care for a sick spouse, in contravention of medical leave laws. Even low-level government employees could refuse to process gay couples’ tax returns, Social Security checks, or visa applications.
Given FADA’s debasing and dehumanizing anti-LGBTQ symbolism, congressional Democrats had urged their GOP colleagues to delay the hearings until after the one-month anniversary of the Pulse massacre. But Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee refused to reschedule. A day before the hearings, the GOP platform committee adopted a plank supporting parents’ right to force LGBTQ children into “conversion therapy”—an incredibly harmful practice opposed by medical professionals that has been banned for minors in some states and found to be “consumer fraud” in New Jersey.
FADA’s text and purpose are strikingly similar to an anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” law recently passed in Mississippi. On June 30, a federal judge blocked the law from taking effect, holding that it violated the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Establishment Clause, of course, is located in the First Amendment—meaning the First Amendment Defense Act very likely violates the First Amendment itself.