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Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News: Congressional Democrats eye limiting scope of religious freedom protections in 1993 law


Congressional Democrats on Wednesday reintroduced the federal Do Not Harm Act, a proposal that would circumscribe discriminatory uses of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, including those which target LGBTQ Americans.

Lambda Legal issued a press release celebrating the move by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), explaining the amended language would prohibit discrimination — such as the denial of goods and services — that otherwise might be deemed lawful under the RFRA.

After it was introduced in the last Congress, the previous iteration of the Do Not Harm Act was cosponsored by 206 House Democrats but failed to advance beyond the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee.

“Since long before the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement even started, our communities, women, and other marginalized groups have been targeted by religion-based condemnation and restriction of equal opportunities,” Lambda Legal Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Pizer said in a statement.

“In recent years, too many of those who oppose the equality and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people have misused religion in their demands for exemptions from rules that should protect everyone at work, at school, in medical offices, and in social services,” Pizer said.

The organization noted the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis may lead to an expansion of businesses’ ability to lawfully “shun LGBTQ+ people in the commercial marketplace.”

Following oral arguments in that case last Dec. 5, SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe wrote the conservative justices appeared poised to rule in favor of the plaintiff, a wedding website designer who sought to deny services to same-sex couples in violation of Colorado’s nondiscrimination statute.

Last year, in anticipation of the High Court’s potential to weaken or overturn the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Congress codified some of the major protections for same-sex couples through passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.

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Washington Blade: LGBTQ News, Politics, LGBTQ Rights, Gay News