Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart has introduced a new bill that aims to strike a balance between anti-discrimination and religious freedom. It has been an ongoing debate between how many rights and freedoms should be allowed to religious groups and organizations on the basis of discrimination. Many people were unhappy with the idea of the Equality Act, as it didn’t seem to tend to both the LGBT rights while also honoring religious needs of everyone.
Finally, some step towards a balance has been taken, and hopefully is just the start. The Fairness for All (FFA) bill proposed does cover anti-discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity when it comes to “employment, housing, accommodations, credit, federally funded services, refugee settlement, and jury service.” There are exceptions; however, to people and groups who are exempt from this rule.
The exemptions apply to employment in churches, religious schools, and religious organizations; to accommodations in churches and religious schools again, as well as religious funeral homes and faith-based cemeteries. Further, religious medical professionals can not discriminate against a patient based on sexual orientation or gender identity for any general medical services, but they can refuse to perform specific services like sex-change operations that directly impede on their religious beliefs. Adoption rights are similarly compromised, where religious-based adoption agencies cannot be forced to accept LGBT parenting placement, and the state will create more open adoption systems and make sure state funding is provided for parents who would otherwise be discriminated against by religious adoptions.
Many people are still not completely happy with this proposition even though it is a start for compromising between very politically sensitive groups and protecting everyone as much as possible. We shall see what other policies come forward in years to come that can create even more balance than this bill.