Senator Ted Cruz, still intent on rebuilding his brand within the GOP after his refusal to endorse Donald Trump did not play out as he'd expected, has hit upon a real honey of a way to get his conservative bona fides back in order. He's going after gay people.
To be fair, he's not specifically, technically, exactly targeting homosexuals. But he's pushing to bring back legislation that, if enacted, will essentially make it okay for others to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Cruz is preparing to reintroduce the controversial First Amendment Defense Act (a.k.a. FADA), a bill that does not seem to do much to actually defend the First Amendment but would make it so the federal government can't go after people or businesses who refuse service to members of the LGBTQ community for moral or religious reasons.
The text of the bill, which was previously introduced in 2015 but never made it past the first congressional hearing, proposes to protect people who discriminate against people in the gay community based on two beliefs. Either the person or business owner can say that it's because he "believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction" that marriage “is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” or “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
On top of that, this bill actually "prohibits the government from taking discriminatory action" against the people doing the discriminating.
To translate, if this bill is ever allowed to actually become law, you could be refused service by the owners or employees of a restaurant, a cake store a canoe shop or whatever because of who your partner is. You could also be shut down as a potential customer because of who the owner assumes you prefer to screw, based on your own appearance.
And it gets even better (worse). FADA would allow citizens to sue the federal government if the feds interfere with their right to pick and choose who they provide services to based on the above reasons. The bill would also mandate that the U.S. Attorney General has to defend those people or businesses.
At this point, it's hard to even feign surprise over what Cruz will pull to simultaneously get his name back in the headlines and curry favor with the far-right conservatives he royally ticked off by refusing to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention in July.
When that gambit of proclaiming his intention to vote his conscience backfired, Cruz hedged his bets a few months later, eating his words and bending the knee to Trump in September, proving that Trump's insults of Cruz, his wife and his father ultimately weren't deal breakers.
Since then Cruz has gone back to his old tricks, creating issues — like the way U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is represented in the Smithsonian, for instance — and causes to fill up the news cycle and get some distance from his ill-fated stance on principle and against Trump.
Still, Tiny-hands-in-chief-elect has already stated, via Trump's campaign website, at least, that he's all for the bill. “If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths,” Trump states on the website.
As to how exactly this bill would actually defend the First Amendment, which guarantees the rights to freely practice a religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to peacefully assemble and the right to petition the government to redress grievances, that's still unclear.
Critics say that, well, it won't.
“The legislation that Senator Cruz is proposing specifically elevates two narrow interpretations above any other religious practice,” Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas told KXAN. “The bill is titled the First Amendment Defense Act, but in reality it is an unconstitutional attempt to totally redefine what the First Amendment protects.”
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We asked Cruz's team, via email, for some clarity on the Constitutional aspect of this — after all, he's a much vaunted Constitutional scholar — but we haven't heard back yet. We also asked if he is pushing to revive this bill because it may help put him back in good standing with Trump and Trump's supporters, the ones who have been angry with Cruz since his RNC speech. We haven't heard back on that either, but we'll update if and when we do.
We also asked if the bill's language will be expanded to protect those who, for religious or moral reasons, refuse to do business with people in heterosexual relationships or marriages. (After all, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, so it stands to reason that legislation protecting these allegedly crucial First Amendment rights not to serve people might be updated as well, right?)
And we inquired whether this bill would be expanded to protect those who want to discriminate against anyone who seems to be having sex out of wedlock, since even straight people having sex without a ring on it is technically frowned on, morally and religiously speaking.
After all, if Cruz is looking to distract people by letting the judgy ones off the leash when it comes to serving the LGBTQ community, he really should just go for it and let everyone start judging everyone for their sexual choices. Can't see that idea backfiring at all.