On Harvey Milk Day, U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), members of the Judiciary Committee, and their Senate colleagues, introduced legislation to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Do No Harm Act. Since its 1993 inception, the original intent of the RFRA has been misappropriated and used to discriminate and harm others such as LGBTQ individuals, women, and children.
The Do Not Harm Act ensures that RFRA can no longer be invoked to threaten fundamental civil and legal rights. In addition to Harris, Leahy and Hirono, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). This bill is the Senate companion to legislation introduced last year by Representatives Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 120 co-sponsors.
“The freedom to worship is a founding principle of this nation as well as the right to live free of discrimination or fear that one’s civils rights will be undermined because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” said Sen. Harris. “The Do No Harm Act will ensure we protect both these rights for all.”
“I am proud to be a lead cosponsor of the Do No Harm Act, which will prevent the shield of religious liberty from being used as a sword for discrimination,” said Sen. Leahy. “While the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was originally passed by Congress to protect the rights of religious minorities, it has been contorted in recent years to defend discriminatory practices against LGBTQ individuals and women seeking access to reproductive health services. The Do No Harm Act would help put an end to misuse of the act and ensure that longstanding anti-discrimination protections in the law are not eroded.”
“The freedom to worship is a founding principle of this nation as well as the right to live free of discrimination or fear that one’s civils rights will be undermined because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
Sen. Kamala Harris
In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in response to a Supreme Court case undermining the rights of religious minorities. But since its passage, twenty-one states have passed state RFRAs and it has been used to defend employment discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, deny health care coverage for employees, claim exemptions to civil rights law, and complicate justice in child labor and abuse cases.
The Do No Harm Act would prevent the RFRA law from being used to deny: Protection against discrimination laws or the promotion of equal opportunity, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws; Workplace protections or protections against child abuse; Healthcare access, information, referrals, provisions, coverage or services to which persons are otherwise legally entitled; Services that the government has contracted to be provided to beneficiaries through a government contract, grant, or cooperative agreement; and, Accommodations or other benefits and services provided by the government.
The Do No Harm Act is supported by a broad coalition of LGBTQ, civil rights, women’s rights, and faith groups.