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Fairness for All Bill Provides LGBT Protections and Religious Exemptions

Republican Utah Representative, Chris Stewart, recently introduced the Fairness for All Act to the House.

An alternative to the highly contested Equality Act, the bill proposed on Dec. 6, 2019 summarizes its purpose: “To prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity; and to protect the free exercise of religion.”

The Equality Act, a highly contested bill in Congress, stated the same purpose almost word for word, with one exception—the absence of a religious exemption. The Equality Act has stalled in the Senate, and some Republicans are hoping this could be the bill to unite both sides through compromise.

According to Christianity Today, the Fairness for All Act would give LGBT people the same protections as the Equality Act while also protecting religious organizations: “The Fairness for All Act exempts religious groups—both churches and nonprofits—from the anti-discrimination rules. Churches wouldn’t be required to host same-sex weddings. Christian schools wouldn’t have to hire LGBT people. Adoption agencies could receive federal funding even if they turned away same-sex couples looking to raise children. The law would also protect the tax-exempt status of religious groups that condemn homosexuality.”

The bill would still be a step forward in prohibiting LGBT discrimination, Christianity Today explains: “the law would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation, including retail stores, banks, and health care service providers. Currently, under federal law and in the majority of states, LGBT people can be evicted from rental property, denied loans, denied medical care, fired from their jobs, and turned away from businesses because of their sexual orientation.”

The CCCU (The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities) released a statement voicing their support for the bill: “The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) supports Fairness for All as a solution-based approach that addresses the cultural tension surrounding religious freedom and LGBT rights. The bill is both principled, a clear and demonstrable way for people of faith to ‘love our neighbor’ in the civic context, and pragmatic, in that the bill makes explicit many religious protections important to a rich and vibrant civil society. Orthodox Christian convictions are central to Christian colleges & universities and there must be freedom to practice, teach, and uphold those without penalty. In pairing LGBT civil rights and religious freedom, Fairness for All underscores that all persons are created in the image of God, implying dignity, value, and worth.”

Representative Chris Stewart, writing for the Salt Lake Tribune about the bill, said, “In contrast with the House-passed Equality Act, this legislation accomplishes the protection of our LGBT communities from housing, employment and other forms of discrimination without compromising the religious liberties of America’s faith communities.”

Stating that the Equality Act is unlikely to pass through the Republican controlled Senate, Stewart hopes his bill can bring about protections for both sides of the polarized issue.

“Criminalizing longstanding and deeply held religious practices and standards is unconstitutional and un-American. Just as discrimination on the basis of color, gender or sexual orientation is un-American. When these two American values conflict, compromise is the answer. Not a winner-take-all solution that will be reversed each time power changes hands,” Stewart said.