Saturday, September 21, 2013

Jeff Fortenberry backs outrageous bill allowing bias against legally married gay couples — and unwed straights

Fortenberry (in the preposterous hair), cosponsor of the
constitutionally dubious MARFA, meets with Nebraska
Bar Association members. He voted for the Ryan budget,
slashing social programs but leaving military spending
untouched, cut taxes for the wealthy while raising them
for the poor, voted for the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act and
warrantless wiretapping, and has a perfect rating by an
anti-immigration organization. Fortenberry's numbers
are 202-225-4806 (D.C.), 402-438-1598 (Lincoln),
402-397-2064 (Norfolk) and 402-727-0888 (Fremont).
Why not call him and find out why he's supporting a law
(HR 3133) with gross equal protection flaws, a law which
allows federal workers to sue the government if they are
disciplined for not doing their job, a law which allows some
hospitals to refuse visitation from same sex spouses of dying
patients, and a law which allows federally-funded homeless
shelters and rehab programs to turn away LGBTs.
The bill cosponsored by Fortenberry targets married gay couples but masquerades as MARFA, the "Marriage and Religious Freedom Act." (Other cosponsors are at the bottom of this post — check to see if your representative is among them.)
     It was introduced by Idaho GOP Rep. Raúl Labrador, a Tea Partier elected in 2010 with the support of the Mormon Church. The text of the bill is here.
     The usual right-wing cultural warrior suspects are behind the bill: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

     Here's what Zack Ford of ThinkProgress wrote about the bill:
According to... HR 3133, there would be no consequences for any organization or individual that chooses not to recognize a same-sex marriage:
The Federal Government shall not take an adverse action against a person, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
     In other words, the bill would create special religious protections only for people who oppose same-sex marriage or premarital sex. Under the guise of “religious freedom,” this bill specifically endorses one particular set of religious beliefs without concern for any others, a pretty clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
     The consequences of this legislation would be immense, such that a few individuals could short-circuit the rights of gay and lesbian couples across the country. Given its prudish inclusion of opposition to premarital sex, these consequences could likely apply to many straight couples as well. Here are a few possible examples of the potential for abuse:
  • Businesses could refuse to provide leave for an employee to take care of a sick same-sex spouse.
  • Federal workers processing tax returns, visa applications, or Social Security filings could refuse to do their job if it meant providing benefits to a same-sex couple.
  • Federally funded programs like homeless shelters and substance abuse programs could turn away LGBT people.
  • A church-run hospital could refuse to provide visitation privileges to a married same-sex couple without fear of endangering their tax-exempt status.
The Washington Blade added this:
     Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, called the bill “a sweeping Trojan Horse proposal” that would undermine constitutional protections...
     Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, a lesbian and the Third Way’s director of social policy and politics said "... the bill as written isn’t just limited to married same-sex couples, but would allow federal beneficiaries to discriminate against anyone who’s had sexual relations outside of an opposite-sex marriage...contravening the Bush-established policy of “Charitable Choice”, which says that when a program is federally funded, a religious organization may not turn people away.
     That means a government-funded health clinic could be able to refuse to provide prenatal care to an at-risk pregnant woman because she is unmarried. Again, that goes against our longstanding principle that when taxpayer funds are involved, an organization must serve all comers.”
Dale Carpenter of the Volokh Conspiracy, a libertarian blog, opened Fortenberry's legislative can of worms and counted them (emphasis added):
...The “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” (MARFA), that would prohibit any “adverse action” by the federal government against any ”person” who acts on the basis of a religious belief opposing same-sex marriage or opposing sexual relations outside of opposite-sex marriages. “Adverse actions” include action by the IRS to strip a group of favorable tax treatment, like tax-exempt status. But it also includes actions related to employment, accreditation, grants, contracts, or benefits otherwise available under federal law. And it broadly prohibits “discrimination” against those who oppose same-sex marriage and non-marital sex. “Person” includes nonprofit and for-profit corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies. MARFA raises very interesting questions of statutory construction, public policy, antidiscrimination law, and potential applications and burdens for married same-sex couples. It also raises potential Establishment Clause issues in its partiality toward certain religious doctrines (i.e., applying only to those who oppose, rather than favor, same-sex marriage for religious reasons). After United States v. Windsor, there are also potential Equal Protection problems in MARFA’s targeted protection of acts motivated by opposition to same-sex marriage.
Here's what the Human Rights Campaign thinks of Fortenberry's bill (emphasis added):
The purpose of the legislation introduced today is simply to let federal employees, contractors and grantees refuse to do their jobs or fulfill the terms of their taxpayer-funded contracts because they have a particular religious view about certain lawfully-married couples – and then to sue the federal government for damages if they don’t get their way. For example, if passed, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act would permit a federal worker processing tax returns, approving visa applications or reviewing Social Security applications to walk away from their responsibilities whenever a same-sex couple's paperwork appeared on his or her desk. It would also allow a federally-funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people. Despite the cosponsors claims, there is no evidence that federal programs have or would discriminate against individuals because of their religious beliefs about marriage. Protections against discrimination based on religious belief are explicitly and robustly provided under the First Amendment and federal nondiscrimination statutes.
Here's what the ACLU thinks of Fortenberry's bill:
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,” said Ian Thompson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative representative. “The proponents of this legislation seek to reincarnate DOMA and, in doing so, perpetuate discrimination against lawfully married same-sex couples and their children. 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.
Other House cosponsors of H.R.3133: Joseph Pitts, Vicky Hartzler, Mike McIntyre, Steve Scalise, Trent Franks, Mark Meadows, John Fleming, Dan Lipinkski, Scott Garrett, Jim Bridenstine, Steve Daines, Charles Boustany, Michele Bachmann, Ann Wagner, Chris Collins, Stevan Pearce, Tim Walberg, Diane Black, Randy Hultgren, Paul Broun, Gregg Harper, Bill Cassidy, Kevin Cramer, Robert Aderholt, Mick Mulvaney, Rob Bishop, Todd Rokita, Mark Sanford, Tom Marino, Billy Long, Tom Graves, Pete Sessions, Bill Flores, Jeff Duncan, Jim Jordan, Randy Weber, Bill Huizenga, Marlin Stutzman, Jack Kingston, Doug LaMalfa, Cynthia Lummis, Matt Salmon, Tom Cotton, Mike Kelly, Jeff Fortenberry, Andy Harris, Jeff Miller, Kerry Bentivolio, Ralph Hall, Mike Rogers (AL), Doug Lamborn, Steven Palazzo, Keith Rothfus, David Phil Roe, Jason Chaffetz, Louie Gohmert, Chris Stewart, Chris Smith, Steve Chabot, Steve Southerland, Walter Jones, Kevin Brady

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