“License to Discriminate” Legislation Angers LGBTQ Community

On July 12th, exactly one month after the horrifying massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on H.R. 2802, the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). I attended this hearing on behalf of AIDS United.

Although its proponents will not say so, the purpose of FADA is to allow individuals, nonprofits, and federal employees to discriminate against LGBTQ people on the basis of their religious beliefs and/or moral convictions without federal intervention. The act would prohibit the federal government from taking any action, such as revoking tax-exempt status, against entities who discriminate against others based on their beliefs that marriage should be between one man and one woman or that sex should be confined to marriage. Opponents of the bill are calling it a “license to discriminate” because it legalizes discrimination against the LGBTQ community. This act not only negatively affects the LGBTQ community, it also would place undue burden on single mothers and unmarried couples.

The hearing hosted a comprehensive panel including Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and pro-LGBTQ advocates such as Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges that nationally legalized same sex marriage, former Congressman Barney Frank, and Katherine Franke, the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher professor of law and the director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School.

Many members of the committee and panel criticized the inopportune timing of the hearing. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) remarked, “To say this meeting is tone deaf is the understatement of the year.” According to Representative Cummings, 80 letters were submitted and disregarded asking the committee to postpone the meeting to a different day.

Obergefell noted, “Today, exactly one month after this horrifying event, I am appearing before this Congressional committee to discuss a bill that would authorize sweeping, taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT people. I think that is profoundly sad.”

I and others in the LGBTQ community found this hearing insulting not just because of its poorly planned date, but also because of the detrimental effects the bill would have on our community. In his opening remarks, Rep. Frank explained how this bill is very personal to him and described a scenario in which the bill would allow discrimination against same-sex couples; if nonprofit developers wanted to use government funding to build housing and chose to exclude same-sex couples from that housing because same-sex marriage goes against the religious beliefs of the organization, the government would be prohibited from denying the organization federal funds due to this bill.

Meanwhile, Senator Lee, argued its purpose is to ensure no American is forced to choose between their religious beliefs and being eligible for nonprofit tax-exempt status and access to federal grants. Ms. Franke repeatedly reminded the committee that these religious protections already exist through the First Amendment. Obergefell added that no church or clergy in this country have ever been forced to marry a couple that would violate their religious beliefs. Further, various religious-affiliated organizations across the nation voiced their opposition to the FADA bill. Franke concluded, “FADA is a solution looking for a problem.”

Not only is this legislation unnecessary, but it also prohibits the federal government from protecting same-sex couples from discrimination by entities such as nonprofits and foster care agencies. If passed, this legislation would start a dangerous precedent of federally-sanctioned discrimination against marginalized groups of people in the name of religious freedom. The First Amendment already guarantees religious freedom in this country, but there is currently no federal legislation protecting members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination. While this bill is unlikely to pass during the Congress, Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump recently said he would sign FADA into law if he were president. During a time where there is increased violence against the transgender community and on the anniversary of the tragic Orlando shooting targeting LGBTQ people, it is disgraceful that elected officials are even considering such legislation.


Enough is Enough!! We need to stop violence against LGBTQ. To many years of seeing how discrimination has hurt so many. I lived most of my life in New York City and saw how the Gay community was treated, “Horrible”! The only time I saw and heard some form of peace was when I used to dj at dance a teria, Palladium, 54 and my hangouts in soho area. I used to work on gay night, not to many dj’s where available on certain nights. I must say it was a privilege and honor to spin my music and give so many the freedom & happiness, even though it was for a couple of hours.

Thank you, LGBT for allowing me to learn so much about your world and learn how discrimination can hurt so many!!!

I will always fight for your cause!!!


Peace, Love, Happiness to all!!