Social Conservative Group Withdraws Support for FADA

Photo credit: Ted Mielczarek via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Photo credit: Ted Mielczarek via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

FRC Action, the 501(c)(4) affiliate of the socially conservative Family Research Council, withdrew support from the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) in response to an amendment to the bill acknowledging a diversity of views on the definition of marriage.

“Unfortunately, the proposed language of FADA was changed late last week by bill sponsors in response to criticism to make it protect the view that marriage is the union of ‘two individuals of the same sex’ as well as the view that it is ‘two individuals of the opposite sex,’” FRC Action said in a statement.

FRC Action also claimed that the bill’s amended language legitimizes last summer’s Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision, which legalized gay marriage nationwide.

“It is unfortunate that the bill sponsors decided to affirm the Court’s redefinition when it is clear the Left does not want a live and let live policy which the original version of FADA supported,” the FRC Action statement went on to say. “Members of Congress should not be asked to implicitly affirm the Supreme Court’s illegitimate decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in order to protect religious liberty or conscience rights, a message that was clearly articulated in the GOP platform this week.”

However, despite what FRC Action says, far from enabling leftist meddling, FADA offers new protections in the wake of the Obergefell decision.

FRC Action claimed in their statement that “The Court’s ruling and the Obama administration is already promoting such views, but natural marriage supporters are not protected from government punishment at all…” This is precisely the situation that FADA is attempting to remedy. It offers those who adhere to traditional sexual mores protections not currently afforded. A “two views” clause in the bill does not take away any protections already provided. It only gives further protection.

FADA was introduced in Congress last year by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Representative Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). After legal experts across the spectrum detailed how the Obergefell decision would create significant tensions between the right of conscience for people of faith and those seeking acceptance of same-sex marriage, Lee and Labrador quickly set to work trying to resolve the conflict and protect religious Americans’ rights.

The bill proposes to outlaw government discrimination against institutions and organizations that have moral or religious qualms about the redefinition of marriage to include homosexual unions. FADA would essentially prohibit actions like President Obama’s 2014 edict, Executive Order 13672, which restricted government agencies from collaborating with groups — like the Salvation Army — that adhere to and promote traditional sexual morality.

On top of that, in this year’s platform committee meetings, delegates to the Republican National Convention embraced an ardent, conservative social agenda. The platform, which will be approved by the general convention this week in Cleveland, denied any legitimacy to the Obergefell decision and heartily endorsed the version of FADA originally introduced in the House. Far from running away a pro-religious freedom agenda, rank-and-file Republicans are embracing it more fervently than before.

This statement withdrawing support for FADA makes FRC Action seem willing to sacrifice the good for the perfect. Social conservatives should certainly not abandon the cause of traditional marriage. However, in the meantime, laws ought to be passed that will protect the right of conscience.

In the antebellum period, radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison famously publicly burned a copy of the U.S. Constitution, decrying it as a “covenant with death” and an “agreement with Hell” due to the pro-slavery elements in the document.

Garrison did not possess the great virtue of the statesman: prudence. Garrison did not understand that politics is not about a utopian march towards societal perfection, but rather the protection of human dignity and natural rights.

FRC Action is not quite burning a copy of the Constitution, but they are withdrawing support from a fine bill that would protect Americans’ rights just because it is not perfectly in line with their ideological vision. Like Garrison, FRC Action is forgetting that politics is the art of the possible.

Principles must be at the heart of politics, but letting ideology cloud judgment will only cause problems in the long run.

Michael Lucchese works for the American Principles Project.