There was a rumor this week that President Trump was gearing up to announce a discriminatory executive order targeting LGBTQ people. Thankfully, the White House shut this down, issuing a statement emphasizing President Trump's commitment to upholding the executive order signed by President Obama in 2014, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. So the executive order is a no-go for now, which is a relief, but the statement from President Trump fails to address one key piece of troubling proposed legislation that he supports: the First Amendment Defense Act, or FADA.
Who else supports FADA?FADA was first introduced in the 114th Congress by Idaho Representative Raúl Labrador and Utah Senator Mike Lee (both Republicans) in June of 2015. It was revised in July of 2016, but the revisions were never formally introduced in Congress. They did have one hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to review the revisions, because of concerns that President Obama would veto it — after all, FADA completely undermines the former president's aforementioned anti-discrimination executive order. FADA hasn't been introduced into the 115th Congress yet, but experts anticipate it could happen at any time. "Both chambers of Congress are controlled by Republicans, many of whom have said they strongly support FADA, and Trump's cabinet and appointees are even co-sponsors of FADA," McGovern says.
At last count, 171 House Republicans and one Democrat co-sponsored the most recent version of the bill. Pizer says that FADA supporters believe that people who are against same-sex couples are the ones who now experience discrimination, because they aren't able to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Supporters of FADA even say it's unfair discrimination that they aren't able to get federal contracts and grants because they insist on discriminating against LGBTQ people, according to Pizer.
At the FADA hearing last July, Kristen Waggoner, a senior counsel and senior vice president of U.S. legal advocacy with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), gave a testimony defending the proposed legislation and clearing up misconceptions about FADA supporters. "Are we willing to censor and force individuals, organizations, and churches to close simply because they adhere to the long held belief that lies at the core of each of the Abrahamic faith?" she said in her opening statement. "Laws that protect the views of marriage promote tolerance and make it a peaceful place to live and FADA does exactly that." She then said, "Comparing those who believe in man-woman marriage to racists is intellectually dishonest." (We reached out to the ADF for a comment, and will update the story when we hear back.)