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The First Amendment Defense Act: Another Tool for Bigotry?

October 30th, 2016


Wedding cake at a marriage ceremony

Discriminatory bills have become the new norm in Congress since Obergefell v. Hodges.

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, individuals in every single state are allowed to marry one another regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This ruling impacted not only a couple’s ability to hold themselves out as legally married in the name of love, but also enables a couple to enjoy more bureaucratic benefits. For example, now parties to a same-sex marriage can file for tax benefits that once they were prohibited from receiving. Additionally, if one spouse is in the hospital, the other spouse will be legally considered next of kin.

It should come as no surprise that not everyone is supportive of this Supreme Court decision and have taken not only to individual acts of discrimination, but are using federal law to support these acts of discrimination. We have previously discussed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and you can read more about that here. In addition to existing law, legislators are busying themselves with proposed laws that will effectively continue to protect bigotry.  

What is the First Amendment Defense Act?

The boldly named “First Amendment Defense Act” (FADA), is a bill introduced on the heels of the Obergefell decision and it does not take an attorney to understand the intent of the bill.

Introduced to the United States House and Senate in June of 2015, bill sponsors Mike Lee and Raul Labrador provide that the bill is intended to protect people who oppose same sex marriage based on their religious beliefs. They provide that requiring individuals who are opposed to gay marriage are being denied their own religious freedoms when they are forced to treat gay marriage as a legal union.

The text provides that, in order to prevent the discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of the views they hold in respect to marriage, a person may assert a cause of action or a defense under the act in order to:

  • Obtain compensatory damages
  • Injunctive relief
  • Declaratory relief
  • Any other relief against the Federal Government

In justification of this bill, the author provides that conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious liberties should be addressed by legislators, that religious freedom is vital, that religious schools could lose tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage and that protecting these religious beliefs that oppose same-sex marriage will not only uphold mandates of the First Amendment, but will also promote a more peaceful culture all around.

It seems that certain legislators have a knack for having their cake and eating it too.

November’s Election Could Change Everything

Although the bill has yet to gain any traction in our current political administration, many agree that all bets are off if Republican nominee Donald Trump wins the November election. Universal Life Church has been dedicated to collecting and providing you with legal analysis and information for over half of a century and we have no intentions of slowing down now. Today, more than ever, remaining aware of  the political environment and how it affects your freedoms is paramount.


(image courtesy of Kyle Jones)

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