The basics: The First Amendment Defense Act (often abbreviated FADA) is a bill introduced into the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate on June 17, 2015. The bill aims to prevent the federal government from taking action against people who discriminate against LGBTQ people for religious reasons.
In short, FADA would allow hospitals, universities, and businesses to ignore same-sex marriage, deny women health care, and fire gay people.
It is the nuclear version of the so-called “religious freedom” laws that have appeared across the country, most infamously in Mike Pence’s Indiana. The Republican House will surely pass it, the Senate will pass it unless it’s filibustered by Democrats, and the President-elect has promised to sign it.
To put it bluntly: If it becomes law, FADA will be the worst thing to happen to women and LGBT people in a generation.
FADA’s basic principle is that it’s not discrimination when businesses discriminate against LGBT people, if they claim a religious reason for doing so. The most famous situations have to do with marriage: wedding cake bakers who say that if they bake a cake, they’re violating their religion; Kim Davis, the government clerk who said that signing a secular marriage certificate was a religious act that she could not perform.
But the more important cases are ones like hospitals refusing to treat LGBT people (or their children), pharmacies refusing to fill birth control prescriptions, businesses refusing to offer health benefits to a same-sex partner, and state-funded adoption agencies refusing to place kids with gay families. That is what FADA is all about.
Any business, agency, or individual, including government employees, hospitals, or huge businesses like Hobby Lobby or Chick-Fil-A — covered.
Old-age homes and hospices that turn away gay people are covered.
Hospitals that refuse a same-sex partner visitation rights – covered.
National hotel chains that refuse to rent rooms to gay couples (or unmarried straight ones) – covered.
And finally, since “moral conviction” is written into the bill, no actual religious grounds are necessary; just some moral conviction that you are right and THEY are wrong.
Oh, and if a State has a law that prevents such discrimination? This is specifically written to supersede that, unless the state laws are written to be even more extreme than FADA… in that case, the state law supersedes.
FADA effectively overturns Obergefell without anyone having to file a lawsuit, because it creates a loophole as large as the right to marry itself. Any governor, mayor, or clerk could proffer a “moral objection” to same-sex marriage, and stop all employees under his or her authority from registering gay couples or certifying gay weddings. And even absent such action, any employer or business can act as though the marriage simply does not exist.
And it has the support of the republican House, Senate, and president-elect.