WILMINGTON, N.C. — North Carolina’s U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, representing the state’s coastal 7th Congressional District, is one of only two Democrats co-sponsoring a bill that would grant religious organizations and individuals the right to ignore federal and other non-discrimination laws.

The bill, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, was introduced on Sept. 19 and is designed to grant “freedom of conscience” protections to religious groups and churches, a commonplace protection already enshrined in several states’ marriage equality laws. Critics of the new bill, however, say it could also allow discrimination by individuals. If passed, the bill could allow federal employees to refuse to process tax returns, visa paperwork or Social Security applications from LGBT individuals or couples.

“Every American understands the importance of protecting the rights of people of faith to hold and express their beliefs, including about the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said Human Rights Campaign Legislative Director Allison Herwitt. “But our Constitution and laws already strongly safeguard that liberty. The purpose of the legislation introduced today is simply to let federal employees, contractors and grantees refuse to do their jobs or fulfill the terms of their taxpayer-funded contracts because they have a particular religious view about certain lawfully-married couples — and then to sue the federal government for damages if they don’t get their way.”

The bill could also allow anti-LGBT discrimination by religious groups which receive taxpayer-funded grants for community services.

McIntyre is joined by just one other Democratic co-sponsor, Illinois’ Rep. Daniel Lipinski.

An emailed request for comment to McIntyre Chief of Staff Dean Mitchell was unreturned at press time.

The bill has been endorsed by a variety of anti-LGBT organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Organization for Marriage, Heritage Action, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and Concerned Women for America. : :

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.