The U.S. bishops have voiced their strong support for a bill protecting individuals and institutions from discrimination by the federal government based on their beliefs about marriage, regardless of what those beliefs are.

"We welcome and applaud the recent reintroduction of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA),” wrote Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville and Bishop James Conley of Lincoln in a March 14 statement. Archbishop Kurtz chairs the US bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty, while Bishop Conley is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

“In a pluralistic society, faith-based charitable agencies and schools should not be excluded from participation in public life by loss of licenses, accreditation, or tax-exempt status because they hold reasonable views on marriage that differ from the federal government's view,” explained the bishops.

“FADA is a modest and important measure that protects the rights of faith-based organizations and people of all faiths and of no faith who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

The bill, which was introduced March 8 by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), provides legal protections for individuals or institutions facing federal discrimination based on their definition of marriage or beliefs about premarital sex.

“What an individual or organization believes about the traditional definition of marriage is not — and should never be — a part of the government’s decision-making process when distributing licenses, accreditations, or grants,” said Senator Lee. “And the First Amendment Defense Act simply ensures that this will always be true in America — that federal bureaucrats will never have the authority to require those who believe in the traditional definition of marriage to choose between their living in accordance with those beliefs and maintaining their occupation or their tax status.”

FADA equally protects those with differing views of marriage. For example, “All Federal definitions of marriage are protected under FADA. FADA would protect a liberal institution that promoted gay marriage, just as it would protect a conservative institution that wanted to promote traditional marriage,” according to Senator Lee’s website.

The bill was previously introduced in the Senate in 2015, but did not make it out of committee. However, the current bill no longer includes protections for federal employees and publicly traded for-profit companies.

The 2015 version of the bill would have protected only those who believe marriage to be the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.

Archbishop Kurtz and Bishop Conley wrote a letter to Lee March 12 expressing their gratitude and support for the bill.

“In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are urgently needed,” wrote the bishops, “Persons who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman are increasingly having their religious freedoms jeopardized and even forfeited.”

“The teaching of the Catholic Church about marriage is based on both faith and reason. Using right reason, one can know that given the nature of the human person, created as male and female, marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The leadership of our Church will continue to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good,” the bishops concluded.

FADA currently has 22 co-sponsors, including Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Jim Risch (R-ID), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY), Ben Sasse (R-NE), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Thune (R-SD), Rand Paul (R-KY), David Perdue (R-GA), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Boozman (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).