The lead plaintiff in the US Supreme Court case that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states is speaking out against the proposed First Amendment Defense Act (FADA).
‘I believe that the United States Congress must be better than this,’ Jim Obergefell said to those behind the wide-sweeping anti-LGBTI bill.
His remarks came during a hearing held by the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday (12 July) – the one-month anniversary of the massacre in a gay nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people.
Obergefell called the hearing ‘profoundly sad’ and ‘deeply hurtful to a still grieving LGBT community.’
FADA seeks to prevent federal government action against individuals and businesses that oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds. It would allow businesses to withhold benefits from LGBTI employees, allow companies to deny time off to an employee to care for a same-sex spouse and permit housing discrimination against same-sex couples.
‘Religious liberty is a core American value,’ Obergefell told the committee. ‘Everyone in this country is free to believe – or not – and to live out their faith as they see fit, provided that they do not do so in a way that harms other people. As I see it, this legislation turns this value on its head by permitting discrimination and harm under the guise of religious liberty.’
Obergefell became the face of the same-sex marriage after he sued to have his marriage to John Arthur recognized by the state of Ohio after the couple married in dramatic fashion in Maryland three months before his husband’s death.
The couple exchanged vows on an airport tarmac in Maryland in the summer of 2013, three months before Arthur died. He suffered from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and had been in hospice care for several months.
They raised $12,700 to charter a private plane and get married in Maryland where same-sex marriage was already legal. After their seven-minute ceremony, they could not fly commercially due to Arthur’s condition.
During his remarks at the hearing this week Obergefell also told lawmakers: ‘Earlier in this hearing it was stated that the purpose of the First Amendment Defense Act is to ensure no one is discriminated against because of how they view marriage. I would like you to read the bill again and understand that is exactly what the bill does.
‘It allows discrimination against me and couples like me and John across this country who believe in marriage equality, who believe in our constitutional right to marry the person we love.’
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