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S. 1598 (114th): First Amendment Defense Act

The First Amendment Defense Act (S. 1598, H.R. 2802) would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against an individual due to their religious or moral belief that two people of the same sex should not be permitted to marry or that same-sex marriage should not be recognized. A discriminatory action would include changes in tax treatment or reduction of federal grants or benefits. In his press release on the introduction of the bill, cosponsor Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) explained that the bill would prohibit the IRS from revoking tax exemption from churches that refuse to officiate same-sex weddings. The bill has was introduced in both chambers with 36 Republican cosponsors for the Senate version and one Democratic and 129 Republican cosponsors for the House version.

Last updated Jul 21, 2015. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jun 17, 2015.


First Amendment Defense Act

Prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.

Defines "discriminatory action" as any federal government action to discriminate against a person with such beliefs or convictions, including a federal government action to:

alter the federal tax treatment of, cause any tax, penalty, or payment to be assessed against, or deny, delay, or revoke certain tax exemptions of any such person; disallow a deduction of any charitable contribution made to or by such person; withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, or otherwise deny any federal grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, loan, license, certification, accreditation, employment, or similar position or status from or to such person; or withhold, reduce, exclude, terminate, or otherwise deny any benefit under a federal benefit program. Requires the federal government to consider to be accredited, licensed, or certified for purposes of federal law any person who would be accredited, licensed, or certified for such purposes but for a determination that the person believes or acts in accordance with such a religious belief or moral conviction.

Permits a person to assert an actual or threatened violation of this Act as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding and to obtain compensatory damages or other appropriate relief against the federal government.

Authorizes the Attorney General to bring an action to enforce this Act against the Government Accountability Office or an establishment in the executive branch, other than the U.S. Postal Service or the Postal Regulatory Commission, that is not an executive department, military department, or government corporation.

Defines "person" as any person regardless of religious affiliation, including corporations and other entities regardless of for-profit or nonprofit status.