It’s too early to tell the likelihood of a federal Fairness for All proposal. “This is a long shot, but so is basically everything in this space,” said Michael Wear, a former White House staffer and political consultant.
The recent elections ushered in an opportune moment to address religious liberty, he said, especially while the Equality Act—a congressional proposal to extend LGBT freedoms that could have advanced under a Hillary Clinton administration—will likely remain on hold under a Republican-led government.
The CCCU continues to follow the formation of the Trump administration, as it considers Fairness for All legislation along with other options.
“We’re obviously hopeful that they’ll be very empathetic to and supportive of religious liberty protections, that they’ll be strong on the First Amendment, and we’re going to wait and see what their appointments are,” said LoMaglio. “In the election, Donald Trump also offered support for LGBT persons and rights, so I think it’s too early to know exactly what their position will be and exactly what that means for the legislative landscape.”
During the campaign, the Pew Research Center found that white evangelicals who believe it’s become more difficult to be a Christian in America today were more likely to support Trump.
While only about a third of American evangelical leaders said they currently experience persecution for their faith, more than twice as many believe they will experience persecution in the form of social, financial, and political pressure in the years ahead, according to an NAE survey conducted in October. (Most agreed that online ridicule and legal backlash are cause for concern, though they don’t compare to the persecution faced by Christians abroad.)
Over the past two years, states like Indiana, North Carolina, and Georgia have watched religious freedom and antidiscrimination bills turn into lightning-rod issues. “In some way, I think they will need to address these challenges on a national level,” said Galen Carey, NAE vice president of government relations. “Because otherwise you have a patchwork of regulations in the states. Some of which could be quite harmful.”
As director of the Fairness for All Initiative, Robin Fretwell Wilson—the University of Illinois law professor who helped pass the Utah Compromise—advocates for what she sees as a common-sense, collaborative approach between religious liberty and LGBT groups. She said that since major lobbies on both sides would probably block a national-level compromise at this point, America is more likely to see more states try to pass Fairness for All legislation before the US Congress does.
“I think what we’re going to see is states, one by one, saying, ‘We’re tired of this,’” said Wilson, who has recently been involved in conversations over antidiscrimination proposals in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. As legislators grow weary of culture wars along with their constituents, “you’re going to see the states respond to it whether the feds are going to or not.”
It also remains unclear whether both sides would back this kind of national compromise. The CCCU, NAE, and the ministry leaders they’ve invited into conversation thus far have yet to get into the specifics of what kinds of protections would be included in a potential federal Fairness for All proposal.