When at first you don’t succeed in discriminating against LGBT people, wait until Donald Trump is sworn in as president.
That’s the strategy of Congressional Republicans, who told BuzzFeed News that the GOP plans to reintroduce the First Amendment Defense Act next year, hopeful that the “religious liberty” bill will pass under “a new Congress and new administration,” as Sen. Ted Cruz said.
The effort to push through the act, which prohibits the federal government from taking action against private businesses and individuals that discriminate against LGBT people or others due to their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” will be spearheaded by Republican Sen. Mike Lee. Conn Carroll, a spokesman for the senator. said the bill has a better shot at becoming law with Trump in the White House.
“Hopefully November’s results will give us the momentum we need to get this done next year,” Carroll said, adding, “We do plan to reintroduce FADA next Congress and we welcome Trump’s positive words about the bill.”
Cruz, a former presidential candidated who campaigned against equal bathroom access for trans people during the 2016 race, also expressed hope about the bill’s chances.
“The prospects for protecting religious freedom are brighter now than they have been in a long time,” the Tea Party favorite said. “We are having ongoing conversations with our colleagues both in Congress and leaders in the new administration about a multitude of ways we can honor the commitment made to the voters in this last election.”
Introduced in the House June 17, 2015, the First Amendment Defense Act has previously stalled in Congress, getting a hearing for consideration in the House but not the Senate.
States have attempted to pass their own versions of the bill in the past year but with scattered results. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill similar to the First Amendment Defense Act earlier this year after the legislation won a majority in the state’s House and Senate. Mississippi passed a “religious liberty” law in March, known as House Bill 1523, but that legislation was overturned by a federal court ruling.
Just this month, LGBT advocates scored a further victory when the Russell Amendment, which would have likewise allowed broad-based discrimination in the name of religion, was struck from the National Defense Authorization Act.
Trump, though, has already stated his support for the First Amendment Defense Act,” saying religious freedom is our “most important protection.”
“If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths,” the president-elect’s website reads. “The Little Sisters of the Poor [a Catholic order opposed to the Obamacare contraception mandate], or any religious order for that matter, will always have their religious liberty protected on my watch and will not have to face bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs.”
With his support, Lee’s spokesman believes things are moving in the right direction.
“We made great progress last Congress,” he told BuzzFeed News. “The first Congress it was introduced, the House had a hearing, and we have every reason to believe the momentum will continue next year.”
So far, rhe First Amendment Defense Act has 172 cosponsors in the House and 37 in the Senate.