July 6, 2016

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union and over 70 national, state and local groups sent a letter today to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) urging him to cancel a hearing on a bill that would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT people, women, and others.

Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has scheduled the hearing on the “First Amendment Defense Act” for July 12, the one month anniversary of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

“It’s outrageous that Congress would hold a hearing on legislation that would make it legal to discriminate against LGBT people with taxpayer dollars one month after the mass shooting that killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay club in Orlando,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project. “Congress should instead focus its efforts on protecting people against violence or discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love.”

The bill's supporters argue that the singular intent of the bill is to prevent discrimination against “people and institutions that define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.” In practice, the ACLU said, the bill will permit sweeping taxpayer-funded discrimination. Based on a professed religious belief or even a legally ambiguous “moral conviction,” private organizations and certain federal contractors would be empowered to refuse a range of services to LGBT people, single mothers, and unmarried couples.

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