Republicans' vile anti-gay crusade: RNC endorses legislation to protect discrimination

The move is the latest indicator that the Supreme Court's marriage ruling is far from the end of the culture war

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published August 18, 2015 8:47PM (EDT)

  (AP/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP/Charlie Neibergall)

Conservatives have suffered a rough summer and aren't copping with their losses well. After watching same-sex couples granted the right to wed nationwide and seeing state-level anti-gay discrimination plots face intense scrutiny, the Republican National Committee is continuing its anti-LGBT fight by endorsing federal legislation codifying the right to discriminate against LGBT Americans into law, reports ThinkProgress.

The so-called First Amendment Defense Act is Republicans' response to nationwide marriage equality and what they describe as an attempt to protect people who find same-sex unions contrary to their faith by preventing any federal response to religious businesses, non-profits and institutions that discriminate against same-sex couples. The bill would allow universities with religious affiliations which receive federal funding to deny employment to workers with same-sex spouses.

Cosponsor Sen. Mike Lee of Utah displayed particularly twisted logic when he claimed that the legislation is meant to prohibit "a particularly nasty form of discrimination which involves discrimination by the government against an individual or a group thereof on the basis of religious belief."

RNC Chair of the Conservative Steering Committee Ellen Barrosse similarly defended this attempt to legalize discrimination by pointing to the free market and a specious argument that religious organizations would be forced to act not in accordance with their religious teachings. “Does Catholic Charities have to place children with gay couples, or will they have to shut down?” Barrosse asked during an interview with the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal. “This is a free market, there are other agencies that will place children with them.”

A similar argument was put forth by Sen. Lee: "we're not, moreover, in a society in which people who are either gay or lesbian who are married to a member of the same sex, for example, are subject to widespread discrimination. There is no shortage in the United States of colleges and universities and other employers of all types, of all sorts, who are willing to hire."

But Republicans' push for this anti-gay discrimination is disingenuous at best. As the ACLU notes, there is no sign that the IRS has any plans to try to revoke the tax-exempt status of religious schools that oppose same-sex marriage and aside from the 1983 decision to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University for its prohibition of interracial marriage, the IRS has made no move to revoke the tax-exempt status of religious schools that have policies against interfaith marriages or remarriage after divorce.

The RNC's extreme position in opposition to marriage equality and in support of legalized discrimination places the Party out of step with its presidential frontrunner, yet again.

Donald Trump told NBC's Chuck Todd that unlike his party, he was "willing to go with what the courts are saying" and supported employee non-discrimination ordinances in light of the Supreme Court ruling overturning same-sex marriage bans, explaining his opposition to employers being allowed to fire employees due to sexual orientation: "I don’t think [someone's sexuality] should be a reason, no."

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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