FFRF Supports Anti-discrimination Laws and Ending Religious Exemptions

Legal protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals vary widely from state to state, and in some states, from city to city. Anti-discrimination laws may cover any number of areas, from education to housing to employment and beyond, and guarantee equal access and dignity for all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. It is important to remember that even in states where protections exist on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression may still not be protected. In Wisconsin, for example, the statutes that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation when it comes to employment, housing and public accommodations do not extend to gender identity/expression. Many religious groups respond to anti-discrimination laws by pointing to Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) and other religious exemptions. RFRAs exist at both the state and federal levels, and require that any law that would impact religious practice, no matter how incidentally, must be the least restrictive means to meet a compelling government interest. This means that even when anti-discrimination protections and other laws that may protect LGBTQIA+ individuals are passed, religious organizations, businesses and individuals may be able to use RFRAs in order to dismantle them. In a recent example from 2022, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurers and employers offer plans that cover preventative care, including the HIV prevention drug PrEP, is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, agreeing with the plaintiff’s argument that it “forces religious employers to provide coverage for drugs that facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior….” In addition to RFRAs, many states have enacted religious exemptions targeted toward LGBTQIA+ rights in the areas of marriage services, adoption/child services, medical services and marriage licenses. These laws work in combination to prioritize religious belief over the rule of law, allowing businesses to refuse service, adoption agencies to turn away prospective parents, doctors to refuse to treat patients and more, on the basis of religious disapproval of certain sexual orientations or gender identities. Cases like 303 Creative v. Elenis are also poised to severely limit the effectiveness of anti-discrimination laws, opening the door for any business owner to refuse service to members of LGBTQIA+ communities on the basis of religion. Now more than ever it is critical to continue to advocate for strong protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals against religious bigotry. Repealing these laws is critical to ensuring that all other legislative efforts are actually effective, rather than essentially meaningless platitudes that don’t actually operate with any force of law. Learn more about FFRF’s work here: State/Church FAQ: Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) Stop the hate, #boycottindiana, overturn RFRA laws everywhere Hostages cannot compromise in legislative conundrums Groups sue outgoing Trump admin for scrapping anti-discrimination protections Ask an Atheist: SCOTUS strikes again: The latest wedding case Reject Colorado business’ anti-LGBTQ appeal, FFRF brief urges Supreme Court FFRF files amicus brief against anti-gay cake maker FFRF condemns HHS rule explicitly allowing anti-LGBTQ discrimination FFRF files Supreme Court amicus brief against foster care discrimination Yeshiva University’s ‘nuclear approach’ a display of bigotry Court reform is needed to protect all aspects of state-church separation, including the protection of LGBTQIA+ communities, families and individuals. Until that happens, we cannot rely on judges to protect the civil rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. We need voices of reason, science and compassion in state legislatures advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights, and the principle of separation between state and church that undergirds most individual freedoms and human rights.

Freedom From Religion Foundation