House Holds Hearing on Anti-LGBTQ Bill despite Widespread Criticism

Exactly one month after the massacre at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman  claimed the lives of 49 people and wounded 53 others, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on a piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation known as the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA).

Testifying at the hearing, Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the country, called the hearing and its timing “profoundly sad.” He continued, “With all due respect to you, Chairman Chaffetz, and the members of this committee, this hearing is deeply hurtful to a still-grieving LGBT community.”

FADA seeks to allow individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations to circumvent federal protections for LGBTQ couples and families under the guise of protecting religious liberty. If this law were to go into effect, companies, organizations, and individuals would not suffer any legal repercussions, such as losing tax benefits, for refusing to provide spousal tax, medical, or educational benefits, to same-sex couples.

Over 70 organizations, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, had called on the Committee to cancel the hearing and instead “hold hearings on how best to ensure that no one in this country is subjected to violence or discrimination based on who they are or whom they love.”

Former Congressman Barney Frank, who identifies as gay and is in a same-sex marriage, also testified at the hearing. “This is a legislative enactment that essentially the fact that I live in a loving, committed marriage with another man is somehow a threat to other people’s freedom, and that Congress has to single that out to act against it,” he said.

An anti-LGBTQ law similar to this one was recently blocked by a federal judge in Mississippi who asserted the law actually hurt religious liberty by favoring certain beliefs over others. As of April 2016 there were more than one hundred active bills across 22 states that legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

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