Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about key provisions that states have advanced in 2021 to defend the family and human dignity.
Religious freedom is foundational to America’s national identity, having been enshrined within the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. But in many states, people of faith and people of no faith affiliation are increasingly being attacked for living in accordance with their sincerely-held beliefs about natural marriage and biological sex.
Hands On Originals, a Louisville T-shirt maker that both serves and employs individuals who identify as homosexual, was sued for refusing to print shirts in support of a 2012 gay pride festival. Barronelle Stutzman, a flower-arranger from Richland, Washington, was forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines by the state for declining to arrange flowers for the same-sex wedding of a long-time customer. In the same year, Jack Phillips, a baker from Lakewood, Colorado, was sued for declining to design a cake for a same-sex wedding. The same thing happened to Melissa Klein of Gresham, Oregon in 2013. Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired in 2015 for writing a devotional book that mentioned the biblical teaching that sex should be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. Hundreds more examples of governmental discrimination against people of faith could be given, and new ones seem to occur every week.
Thankfully, state legislators are taking preventative action by introducing Government Nondiscrimination Acts (GNDAs), which seek to ensure that Americans will never be discriminated against by their government for affirming natural marriage and biological sex. These bills prohibit the government from taking any adverse action against individuals for their religious beliefs regarding marriage and sexuality. GNDAs have been introduced in 18 states since 2015. Almost half of the 41 bills were introduced in 2016. A cause of action has been added to most versions, giving them much stronger enforcement mechanisms.
Contrary to the often-hysterical accusations of GNDA opponents, these bills do not limit or regulate same-sex marriage and never exempt any individual or entity from providing services that are necessary to protect the life, health, or safety of another person. GNDAs do not allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; rather, they protect people from government discrimination if they refuse to violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs or moral convictions.
No person should be subjected to government discrimination for following their religious beliefs or moral convictions regarding natural marriage or biological sex. Whether one bakes cakes, designs T-shirts, arranges flowers, or officiates weddings, Americans should be able to live and work in a manner consistent with their sincerely-held convictions. With state and even local officials increasingly suing individuals, even in “conservative” states, Government Nondiscrimination Acts are desperately needed if America is to live up to its reputation as a haven of liberty./span>