When the Supreme Court approved marriage equality two months ago, some Republican insiders were quietly thrilled. Party officials realized that Republicans are sharply at odds with the American mainstream on the issue, and the sooner the party could move away from the issue, the better.
Since the ruling effectively ended the debate, it created a convenient partisan opportunity. The New York Times reported that some Republican strategists privately characterized the high court decisions as “nothing short of a gift from above.”
But the gift only works if Republicans accept it and actually move past the issue. ThinkProgress noted yesterday that Republican National Committee members have quietly approved a resolution that endorses the far-right’s preferred response to the Supreme Court’s decision.
The RNC wants Congress to approve the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). This bill, which the ACLU has called “a Pandora’s Box of taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their children,” would prevent the federal government from acting against businesses and non-profits that discriminate against same-sex married couples. This would mean that government workers could refuse to perform their duties, and businesses and organizations – including those that operate with support of taxpayer money – would be free to discriminate. […]The RNC resolution specifically references multiple cases when private business owners have faced legal consequences for refusing to serve to same-sex couples in violation of nondiscrimination laws.
The Washington Blade added, “The resolution wasn’t announced or reported anywhere in the press until last week after its passage when the Daily Signal, a conservative publication, published an article on the measure. A RNC official confirmed for the Washington Blade the report was accurate.”
The RNC’s quiet endorsement of the resolution may actually have a practical effect on Capitol Hill. It’s not a binding resolution, but given the larger context, this matters.
As of this morning, the “First Amendment Defense Act” has 145 co-sponsors in the House – 144 of whom are Republicans – which means it has the backing of well over half of all the Republicans in the chamber. There’s a companion bill in the Senate, which has 36 GOP co-sponsors – that’s two-thirds of all Senate Republicans.
Indeed, note that of the four sitting GOP senators running for president – Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Lindsey Graham – all four have already put their names on this bill.
The question now is whether congressional Republican leaders are prepared to make FADA a priority and schedule time on the floor for a vote. So far, party leaders have been reluctant, looking at this as a losing issue. Besides, it would never overcome a filibuster in the Senate and stands even less of a chance of earning President Obama’s signature.
But between the co-sponsors and the RNC resolution, pressure is building on party leaders on the Hill to act anyway. Watch this space.