- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2018

One of the country’s foremost free-speech advocacy groups is slamming Senate Republicans for introducing a bill called the “First Amendment Defense Act.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said the legislation would allow companies and government contractors to discriminate against members of the LGBT community and others who do not adhere to traditional marital norms.

Ian Thompson, legislative representative at the ACLU, said the bill is a “blatant example of using religion as a justification to discriminate.”

“This bill opens the door to a wide range of taxpayer-funded discrimination,” Mr. Thompson said in a statement.

Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, introduced the First Amendment Defense Act on Thursday along with 21 co-sponsors. He said the bill would prevent the government from discriminating against individuals and institutions because of their views on marriage.

“What an individual or organization believes about the traditional definition of marriage is not — and should never be — a part of the government’s decision-making process when distributing licenses, accreditations or grants,” Mr. Lee said in a statement.

Mr. Lee introduced similar legislation in 2015, but it did not make it out of committee.

The new version of the bill also protects supporters of same-sex marriage from governmental discrimination.

Despite that change, gay-rights advocates have condemned the legislation as a license to discriminate.

David Stacy, director of government affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, called the First Amendment Defense Act “harmful legislation that would legalize state-sanctioned discrimination and undermine key civil rights protections for LGBTQ people.”

“Supporters of this legislation are using religious liberty as a sword to hurt LGBTQ families rather than staying true to our long tradition of it serving as a shield to protect religious expression from government overreach,” Mr. Stacy said in a statement.

President Trump promised to sign the First Amendment Defense Act as a candidate.

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