The Fairness For All Act does, does not fair well

Republican Congressman Chris Stewart, represents Utah’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives. And in a recent op-ed piece in The Salt Lake Tribune, Stewart wrote, “LGBT advocates and faith groups have joined with me to introduce the Fairness for All Act – legislation intended to balance the legitimate rights of both LGBT and religious communities.

“In contrast with the House-passed Equality Act,” he continued, “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.

During a recent press conference, support came from the American Unity Fund, which is dedicated to advancing the cause of freedom for LGBT Americans, as well as support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was represented by Elder Ronald A. Rasband.

Governor Gary Herbert also offered his support, noting that “there is room in our pluralistic society for people of good will to disagree on these issues but still coexist and be treated fairly.”

“This bill is the way to build bridges between diverse communities,” Margaret Hoover, the president of the American Unity Fund, told the Tribune. “It is the kind of bill and approach that represents the best of our traditions as Americans by bringing diverse coalitions together, individuals, people of faith, LGBTQ people and allies. This bill promotes civic pluralism, which is what we are at our heart, the best of America.”

On the other side of the aisle, the Human Rights Campaign, said last week that Stewart’s bill takes the wrong approach and legally allows religious groups to discriminate.

“The so-called Fairness for All Act is an unacceptable, partisan vehicle that erodes existing civil rights protections based on race, sex and religion, while sanctioning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people,” said HRC president, Alphonso David.

Troy Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, spun a more positive tone toward the bill, calling it a “milestone” even if it doesn’t add up to everything his group wants.

“Representative Stewart and many conservative faith organizations now recognize that LGBTQ Americans must be included in and protected by our nation’s civil rights laws,” Williams said. “Although Equality Utah was not involved in drafting the Fairness for All Act, and we have significant concerns about some of the bill’s provisions, we look forward to beginning a dialogue with the bill’s sponsor.”

But again, at a national level, the American Civil Liberties Union said about the act, “In reality, the bill facilitates the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to give a green light to those who would turn LGBTQ people away from jobs, health care, housing, even taxpayer-funded programs, simply because of who they are. The bill also weakens some longstanding protections in federal and state laws for everyone, not just LGBTQ people.

The ACLU also pointed to three ways the act really isn’t “fair for all”. One, it creates a different Standard for anti-LGBTQ discrimination; and second, it grants a license to discriminate in child welfare; thirdly, it will undermine existing protections from the Courts, noting that within the next several months, the Supreme Court is poised to rule in a trio of cases concerning the existing rights of LGBTQ people under federal law. This new bill would undermine a potentially favorable ruling in those cases by authorizing discrimination in many contexts where it would be prohibited under existing law.

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