A number of Republicans in the House and Senate have backed a measure that would shield employers from legal action if they act—say, fire someone—in accordance with their belief that "marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman."
But opponents of the measure say that, in addition to unraveling anti-discrimination protections for federal contractors enacted by President Obama, the bill is broad enough that it could also sanction discrimination against pregnant single women and other people whose choices might upset their boss' religious sensibilities.
From the text of the First Amendment Defense Act:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
The post-Obergefell v. Hodges read on this bill is that employers who want to fire gay and lesbian employees for getting married could do so without worrying about losing their tax exempt status or federal contracts. (It's also worth noting here that in the absence of a federal anti-discrimination law to protect all workers, firing LGBTQ people for any reason is already legal in most states.)
But, as Dana Liebelson at the Huffington Post pointed out on Thursday, the bill could also be invoked by bosses who want to fire any person because their relationship or life choices might fall outside the bounds of a given faith. That could mean single women who become pregnant. Or a person who divorces and remarries. Or, you know, people who wear wool and linen at the same time. (This is blatant discrimination against people who shop at Eileen Fisher, which is very WTF.)
The First Amendment Defense Act "clearly encompasses discrimination against single mothers," Ian Thompson, a legislative representative at the American Civil Liberties Union, told HuffPo.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), the author of the House version of the bill, rejected this read on the bill: "It's just allowing people to continue to believe the way they do," told HuffPo.
But Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the sponsor of the Senate bill, said that he didn't find the hypothetical firing of a single mother that far fetched. "There are colleges and universities that have a religious belief that sexual relations are to be reserved for marriage" and, in those cases, they "ought to be protected in their religious freedom," he said during an interview with NPR.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), for his part, hasn't signaled whether he'll bring the measure to the floor. "The Supreme Court’s decision on marriage raises a lot of other questions and a number of members have concerns about the issues it raises," he said Thursday. "No decision has been made on how best to address these."