Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and James Lankford introduced resolutions in Congress Wednesday that would effectively veto two recently passed D.C. laws that force religious and pro-life groups operating in the district to hire people who do not agree with their beliefs.
In January, the D.C. Council passed the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014, a bill that could force employers in the district to hire individuals who advocate for abortion and could require those employers, even those who advocate pro-life causes, to cover elective abortions in their healthcare plans.
The council also passed the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014, a bill that could force Christian schools to recognize LGBT student groups and possibly host “gay pride” days on campus.
Being that Washington, D.C. is home to many of the largest conservative organizations in the world, this legislation creates a bit of a quandary when they look to hire new employees.
“The government has no business forcing pro-life and faith-based organizations to betray the very values they were created to advance,” Casey Mattox, senior counsel for the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom said in a statement. “D.C. officials had the opportunity to drop these laws, which clearly violate religious freedom and freedom of conscience, but they chose not to.”
Last month the organization sent a letter to Congress calling the law unconstitutional and asking Congress to act to disapprove the legislation.
Problems with the constitutionality of the bills were noted even before they passed the D.C. Council. Former Democrat Mayor Vincent Gray wrote a letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson calling the legislation “legally problematic.”
“Religious organizations, religiously-affiliated organizations, religiously-driven for-profit entities, and political organizations may have strong First Amendment and RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) grounds for challenging the law’s applicability to them,” Gray said in the letter. “Moreover, to the extent that some of the bill’s language protects only one sex’s reproductive health decisions, that language may run afoul of the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee.”
Gray urged members of the council to clarify the terms used in the legislation before passing it along to Congress, though his wishes went unheeded and Mayor Muriel Bowser signed off on the bills.
In order for D.C. Council legislation to become law it is required to be sent before both houses of Congress for 30 days before taking effect. During this 30 day period Congress can enact a joint resolution disallowing the law, which is what the senators intend to do.
The two bills were transmitted to House Speaker John Boehner on March 6, which started the clock on the 30 legislative period.
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