Republicans, some advocates push for LGBTQ rights bill

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Religious leaders and advocates came together Friday on Capitol Hill to promote a bill they say would create federal protections for LGBTQ people and strengthen religious freedom within churches.

Republicans sponsoring the plan say the legislation is a compromise that would give LBGTQ Americans federal civil rights protections in the workplace, housing education and beyond. The legislation gives religious institutions some immunity.

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT, says his bill strikes a much-needed compromise.

“We are children of the same God,” he said.

Stewart says his plan is a more realistic solution than a plan that passed in the House back in May that would expand civil rights protections for those in the LBGTQ community. That plan has been dead in the Senate.

“Neither side has to lose for the other side to win,” Stewart said.

Supporters say the bill will protect civil rights of LBGTQ people without impeding religious freedom.

“This is an example of how America should be doing politics,” said Chicago Pastor Chris Butler.

Tim Schultz with the 1st Amendment Partnership says this plan does the same thing as the bill that passed in May but gives the religious institutions exemptions.

“We’re being careful with the lines we draw, and we think these lines are sort of morally politically sensible,” he said.

But the plan is already facing backlash.

A coalition of civil rights groups like the NAACP and the country’s largest gay advocacy group says the bill still treats LGBTQ people like second-class citizens.

Tyler Deaton with the American Unity Fund, the sole gay advocacy group at the Friday press conference, says the bill gives LGBTQ Americans a more likely path to federal protections.

“Concrete legislation can resolve these differences, and we should no longer leave this to the courts alone,” Deaton said.

Right now, the bill only has Republican support, but Stewart says he’s confident he can sway some Democrats.

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