House GOP Files Bill That Allows Employers To Fire Single Pregnant Women

Well, it’s happened. Republicans have become so desperate in their attempts to allow bigots to discriminate freely against the LGBT community that they have crafted a bill with language so loose that would allow “Christians” to fire single women for getting pregnant…just like Jesus would. H.R. 2802, or the First Amendment Defense Act, “prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person — which is defined to include for-profit corporations — acting in accordance with a religious belief that favors so-called traditional marriage,” the Huffington Post reports. “This means the feds can’t revoke a nonprofit’s tax-exempt status or end a company’s federal contract over this issue.”

The bill includes protections for people who believe marriage is between “one man and one woman” and “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” If that’s not awful enough, American Civil Liberties Union legislative representative Ian Thompson points out that the legalized discrimination within the bill extends to other groups conservatives regularly attempt to deprive of equal treatment — single mothers.

Thompson says that in addition to declaring open season on the LGBT community, the bill “clearly encompasses discrimination against single mothers” and would make it difficult for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — which protects women from sex-based discrimination — to protect women who are terminated for having a child. HuffPo notes:

This scenario isn’t merely hypothetical. There are a number of recent cases where religious schools have fired unwed teachers for becoming pregnant. A Montana Catholic school teacher who was fired for having a baby out of wedlock, for example, filed a discrimination charge last year with the EEOC. While the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a ministerial exception to employment discrimination laws, that exception is somewhat limited, not necessarily covering educators employed by Catholic schools who teach about exclusively secular subjects.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who introduced this latest example of why people in other countries hate us to the House, told HuffPo that “It’s just allowing people to continue to believe the way they do.”

And, of course, some people believe it is entirely O.K. to discriminate against single mothers:

This scenario isn’t merely hypothetical. There are a number of recent cases where religious schools have fired unwed teachers for becoming pregnant. A Montana Catholic school teacher who was fired for having a baby out of wedlock, for example, filed a discrimination charge last year with the EEOC. While the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a ministerial exception to employment discrimination laws, that exception is somewhat limited, not necessarily covering educators employed by Catholic schools who teach about exclusively secular subjects.

Other Republicans support this legislation, as well. “We’re not going to try to dance on the head of a pin here,” said Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas). “This legislation protects an institution based on its sincerely held religious beliefs from persecution.”

When asked about a hypothetical scenario in which an unmarried woman was fired from a university for having sex out of wedlock Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who introduced the companion legislation in the Senate, didn’t bother to hide that he was both aware of this possibility, and was fine with it.

“Colleges and universities that have a religious belief that sexual relations are to be reserved for marriage,” Lee told NPR, “ought to be protected in their religious freedom.”

There are colleges and universities that have a religious belief that sexual relations are to be reserved for marriage and that, for religious reasons, recognize a marriage as an institution between a man and between a woman. Those colleges and universities have the right to make that decision on their own. Now, most colleges and universities don’t have that. It is, again, a slim a minority of those that do. But those that do have this ought to be protected in their religious freedom.

Frighteningly, this new “religious freedom” bill is gaining momentum in the GOP-controlled house. The Hill reports that more than 55 Republicans pledged their support last week alone, bringing the total number of cosponsors to 115. Many Republicans are hopeful that they will be able to pass the bill before they have to go home and face the bigots at town halls in August. However, they could have some problems:

But there’s one possible hang-up: The bill’s author is Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, which has caused fits for GOP leadership since its launch in January. Labrador, a Tea Party favorite, also is a one-time rival to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who controls the floor schedule.

In recent months, some conservative rebels have complained that leadership has retaliated against them by blocking votes on legislation they’ve written. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) said his bill to name a courthouse in his district has been sidelined because of his frequent criticism of leadership.

But co-sponsors of Labrador’s bill said they hoped the bill would receive a vote based on its merits, not based on who introduced it. Conservative Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

“I think the bill should stand on its merits, and I believe the bill has its merits,” Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), who also co-sponsored the bill, said in an interview. However, McCarthy has not displayed any signs that a vote will be scheduled during the final three weeks before the August recess. The bill has been passed to the Oversight and Government Reform and the Ways and Means committees, but neither group has placed it on its schedule.

But, there are more problems. The Hill notes that only one Democrat, Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinsi, has co-sponsored the bill. Labrador will have to rely heavily on other Republicans to get the 218 votes needed for passage, and many of them consider him toxic. However, Labrador says that there should not be any problems. “They are not threatening me personally about my bill. They assured me legislation that is important will go to the floor, so I take them at their word,” Labrador told The Hill. “McCarthy assured me he’s not trying to get in the way of the bill.”

One way or another, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) says he hopes that a vote happens, otherwise it could get uncomfortable for “members going home for August town halls” who would “like to have had an opportunity to stake out their position on this. … There’s clearly quite a head of steam.”

“[T]his bill goes far beyond simply places of worship, extending to businesses and nonprofits, for example,” said openly-gay Rep. Jared Polis. “The bill even contains a clause stating that it must be construed as broadly as possible by the courts and could be read to permit all businesses to use their views on marriage as justification to discriminate against LGBT Americans.” However, he agrees that “There’s certainly room for clarification that no faith would ever be forced to perform or sanctify marriages that they don’t agree with, just as the Catholic faith isn’t required to marry people who have been divorced.”

Thompson says that the bill would not stop at legalizing discrimination against single mothers (as well as the obvious groups of people). It “would eviscerate anti-discrimination protections for LGBT federal contractors signed into law by President Barack Obama last year and allow federal grantees to turn away LGBT people from homeless shelter services or drug treatment programs.” Thompson compared the bill to Indiana legislation that allowed open discrimination against LGBT individuals, calling it “Indiana on steroids.”

The White House has not yet weighed in on the legislation, but it is likely that if it makes it to Obama’s desk, the “Veto Pen™ will be getting some exercise.

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Colin Taylor

Colin Taylor is the managing editor of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.


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