A Republican lawmaker has proposed a new LGBTQ rights bill that is intended to be a compromise between LGBTQ advocates and religious organizations.
Utah Rep. Chris Stewart introduced the Fairness For All Act in the House. Similarly to the Equality Act, this new act protects LGBTQ people by making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Unlike the Equality Act, though, this act also carves out many religious exemptions for faith-based organizations and small businesses.
Stewart sees the bill as a way to “bridge that gap” between preventing discrimination and protecting religious freedom. He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I don’t know many people who wake up and say ‘I want to discriminate.’ Most people find that offensive,” Stewart told The Associated Press. “There are people who, and I’m included among them, have religious convictions that put them in a bind about how to reconcile those two principles.”
Anti-discrimination protections are a hot topic at the moment. The Supreme Court continues to consider three landmark cases on whether LGBTQ people are protected from employment discrimination by the Civil Rights Act. Moreover, the Equality Act has already passed the House and garnered widespread support among Democrats and LGBTQ advocates. However, it’s unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Equality Act includes limited religious exemptions, but it doesn’t go nearly as far as the Fairness For All Act.
“The Equality Act was written in such a way that a religious person like myself couldn’t vote for it,” Stewart told Christianity Today.
His act, by contrast, would include broad exemptions for religious groups. For example, it would allow faith-based adoption agencies to turn away LGBTQ parents, and it would allow hospitals to turn away transition-related services.
“All of God’s children, regardless of sexual orientation or religion, deserve dignity, respect, and the right to pursue happiness,” Stewart said in a press release. “This legislation allows us to settle the legal questions and get back to the business of loving our neighbors.”
The bill has received backlash from religious conservatives as well as LGBTQ rights advocates. It is unlikely to pass.