Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family has drafted legislation for lawmakers in states around the country that would legally protect employers and landlords who turn away gay applicants based solely on the fact that they’re gay. In some cases, Focus on the Family legislation would nullify already-existing anti-discrimination laws meant to guard against discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender.
Montana’s House of Representatives Wednesday approved a bill that would overrule a Missoula city ordinance prohibiting that kind of discrimination.
In Tennessee, a bill that would overrule local anti-discrimination charters and limit actionable discrimination to cases based on “race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin” failed in committee earlier this month. State Representative Glen Casada (R-Franklin) introduced the bill in response to a recent Nashville Metro Development and Housing Agency decision to expand anti-discrimination statutes to include gender and sexuality-based discrimination.
In Kansas, a bill currently in the House Judiciary Committee is meant to achieve the same goal using far less transparent language. HB 2260 is framed as a religious freedom bill, but it contains language that would give employers and landlords the right to discriminate against anyone, as long as they say they’re doing so for religious reasons.
Opponents of the bill say the convoluted language of the bill hides its purpose, that put plainly, the bill says discriminating against LGBT employees and tenants is an act of religious freedom protected under the law.
All three of the recent discrimination bills have ties to evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family.
In an interview with the Billings Gazette, Rep. Kris Hansen (R-Havre) said that the Focus on the Family-affiliated Montana Family Foundation brought an already-drafted version of the bill to her to introduce.
Focus on the Family’s political communications subsidiary, CitizenLink, has been championing the discrimination bill in Tennessee. Indeed, the group issued a press release about it nearly a month before it was introduced in the Tennessee House.
And one of the principal advocates of the convoluted Kansas discrimination bill has been the Alliance Defense Fund, which was co-founded by Focus on the Family head James Dobson.
Focus on the Family was also responsible for a series of 2008 Colorado ads opposing an anti-discrimination bill then being debated. The ads said the bill would allow sexual predators to cross-dress and enter restrooms meant for the opposite sex in order to sexually assault children. The bill passed into law.
Focus on the Family is currently opposing a bill in Colorado that would allow gay couples to enter into civil unions. Civil unions would bestow on gay domestic partnerships the legal rights and responsibilities that come with marriage, like the right to share insurance policies and make medical and financial decisions for one another. Citizen Link said that, even though fair-minded people support civil unions, it is encouraging fair-minded people to oppose civil unions because it believes any step on the road to gay marriage should be opposed.
Focus on the Family underwent an IRS investigation between 2005 and 2007, during which it was investigated for inappropriately endorsing and funding campaigns for public office. The organization stood to lose its non-profit status as a result of the investigation, though it was eventually cleared of the charges.
For more on the Focus on the Family bill introduced in Montana, see the American Independent’s version of this story.
Additional writing and reporting by John Tomasic.