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Republicans introduce bill to protect  anti-LGBT views
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) walks past reporters inside the Capitol. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee and 21 other Republicans introduced a bill on Thursday that would protect people and companies that object to same-sex marriage, as well as those who have sex outside of marriage.

The bill, dubbed the First Amendment Defense Act, says the federal government cannot change the tax status or deny federal funding to groups who discriminate against same-sex couples, or couples who have premarital sex, based on their religious beliefs.

The bill says that the federal government “shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person speaks, or acts, in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief, or moral conviction, that marriage is or should be recognized as a union of one man and one woman; or two individuals as recognized under federal law; or sexual relations outside marriage are improper.”

The bill was first introduced back in 2015, but was never put to a vote. Other Republicans who have signed onto the bill include Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

President Donald Trump expressed support for the law during his campaign, saying in a statement that he would sign the bill to “protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”

Opponents of the law say it sanctions discrimination, allowing, for example, taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to refuse to allow same-sex or unmarried couples from adopting.

“This is a blatantly discriminatory bill,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted Thursday. “It would let private companies and government contractors— which includes a significant portion of social services providers — refuse to provide a service or benefit to people because they object to their family.”

The ACLU says this bill is broader than the 2015 version, because it also targets unmarried couples who live together.

“Unlike former versions, this new legislation doesn’t specifically designate LGBT families as the sole target of the exemption. Ironically, doing so only opens the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination against even more people,” the ACLU tweeted. “We will fight to make sure it never becomes law.”