AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The controversial First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) could be re-introduced this year, according to the bill’s Republican co-sponsors Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who say they still fully support the once-failed legislation. FADA, which protects people or businesses who refuse services to LGBTQ individuals, was introduced in 2015, but never made it past the first congressional hearing.
The bill’s text says the refusal of service can be based on two beliefs: that marriage “is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” or “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
“The legislation that Senator Cruz is proposing specifically elevates two narrow interpretations above any other religious practice,” Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas said. “The bill is titled the First Amendment Defense Act, but in reality it is an unconstitutional attempt to totally redefine what the first amendment protects.”
FADA allows individuals and businesses to sue the federal government for interfering with a refusal of service. It would also mandate the U.S. Attorney General to defend those businesses.
Smith said the bill would be devastating for the LGBTQ community in Texas.
“The intent of religion is to protect and help people, not to use religion as a sword to harm other people,” Smith said, “and that is specifically what this legislation would attempt to do.”
The bill already has the support of President-elect Donald Trump. In a statement on his campaign website, Trump said “If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”
Smith said even though a Texan is behind the bill, he said it does not accurately reflect the state’s beliefs.
“I think Texans don’t believe in discriminating against people,” Smith said. “I think Texans are not supportive of going back to a period of time when we denied service to people because of who they are.”