CPJ AND IRFA WELCOME FAIRNESS FOR ALL LEGISLATION
Issued February 26, 2021
The Center for Public Justice supports the Fairness for All Act introduced into the House of Representatives today. Fairness for All would modify federal law to extend nationwide civil rights protections for LGBTQ people while strengthening religious freedom protections for religious organizations and people with other convictions about human sexuality. Fairness for All offers a pluralist approach, to protect rights and freedoms all around. This is the approach the United States must take to avoid curtailing rights for people of faith while extending LGBTQ rights.
The Center for Public Justice is deeply committed to the historic biblical understandings of marriage and human sexuality. However, the ability for citizens and organizations of differing views about marriage and sexuality to coexist and to collaborate is essential to pluralistic society and to our democracy. What our laws must do is show us how to live together despite and with our differences. That is the goal of the Fairness for All Act. Fairness for All sets out in legislation the rules that will guide citizens and organizations of differing views about marriage and sexuality to coexist and to collaborate.
The Fairness for All Act would vigorously extend civil rights protections to LGBTQ people and supersede the current patchwork of laws and protections. We support this extension because no person in the United States should be denied their basic civil rights because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But neither should civil rights law prohibit persons and organizations committed to the free exercise of religion from conducting themselves in accordance with those basic convictions. The Fairness for All Act extends civil rights protections for LGBTQ people while correspondingly strengthening the protections for religious freedom so that people and organizations can continue to live and serve as guided and inspired by their religious convictions.
In sharp contrast with the Equality Act as introduced, Fairness for All preserves the full strength of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the 1993 law adopted nearly unanimously and to great acclaim by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. RFRA puts into law the First Amendment’s protections for religious exercise and religious organizations, and when these rights are alleged to conflict with other civil rights, provides recourse to the courts.
The Center for Public Justice was an original proponent of a pluralist way to extend LGBTQ rights because of our conviction that the laws of the land must protect everyone, no matter their beliefs or identities. The protection must extend to faith-based organizations of all kinds—houses of worship, religious charities, religious schools and colleges, faith-based health care, faith-shaped companies. These organizations are an expression of religion in life and in society: they are constitutionally protected exercises of religion. And their existence as distinctively religious organizations is vastly important in our society as they serve the communities around them and shape their members to serve the common good.
We have been glad to work intensively with a coalition of LGBTQ civil rights advocates and religious freedom advocates to help to develop new concepts and language for federal civil rights law that will broadly protect people and organizations of differing convictions. The Fairness for All Act applies this approach and language to protect rights broadly in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, government-funded services, adoption and foster care services, and more.
For too long, LBGTQ Americans and many faith-based organizations have found themselves increasingly in conflict with one another. This is not necessary. The Center for Public Justice is pleased to support the Fairness for All Act—legislation modeled on principled pluralism.
The Center for Public Justice is an independent, nonpartisan organization devoted to policy research and civic education. Our mission is to equip citizens, develop leaders, and shape policy in pursuit of our purpose to serve God, advance justice, and transform public life.
The Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, a division of the Center for Public Justice, promotes government policies, public attitudes, and organizational practices that safeguard institutional religious freedom so that faith-based organizations can make their vital and diverse contributions to the common good.