An Idaho House Republican introduced a bill on Thursday designed to overrule the Supreme Court’s U.S. v. Windsor decision and legalize discrimination against same sex couples. The ACLU reported that Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act,” designed to make it possible for government and private agencies to deny legally married same sex couples the same rights and freedoms enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
Earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Clinton-era federal law that defined marriage as being between a man and woman, thus clearing the way for same sex couples to legally marry and to receive the same benefits as other married couples in the U.S..
Couching the refusal to recognize legal marriages in terms of “religious freedom,” Labrador said in a statement, “Regardless of your ideology, we can all agree about the importance of religious liberty in America. Our bill will protect freedom of conscience for those who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. As President Obama said, ‘Americans hold a wide range of views’ on marriage and ‘maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom’ is ‘vital.’ We agree.”
Therefore, Labrador said, any institution operating as a religious or faith-based organization should be able to deny same sex couples benefits and services, including organizations like Catholic hospitals and universities, which receive state and local grants and government funding.
In its statement, Labrador’s office wrote, “Most religious institutions fall within the 501(c) portion of the U.S. tax code, which allows for tax exemption. Under the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, no individual or institution which celebrates and defines marriage as between one man and one woman would be denied or lose exemption from taxation provided for under federal law.”
Ian Thompson of the ACLU responded, “Religious liberty is a fundamental American value. It guarantees us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs, but it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others.”
“The proponents of this legislation seek to reincarnate DOMA and, in doing so, perpetuate discrimination against lawfully married same-sex couples and their children,” said Thompson. “Gay and lesbian couples raise children, vote, and pay taxes just the same as everyone else, but this legislation would allow these couples to be treated differently based on who they are, giving a free pass to federal workers, recipients of taxpayer-funded grants and contracts, and others to discriminate against lawfully married couples.”
[image of Raul Labrador via Facebook.com]