February 28, 2019

Harris Reintroduces Legislation to Protect Civil Rights of All Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris reintroduced the Do No Harm Act, legislation to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to ensure that the law can no longer be invoked to threaten fundamental civil and legal rights. Since its 1993 inception, RFRA has been used to discriminate against and harm others, including LGBTQ individuals, women, and children.


Companion legislation will also be reintroduced today in the House by Representatives Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA).


“The freedom to worship is one of our nation’s most fundamental rights. That First Amendment guarantee should never be used to undermine other Americans’ civil rights or subject them to discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” said Harris. “I’m proud to reintroduce the Do No Harm Act to more comprehensively protect the basic rights of every American.”


In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in response to a Supreme Court case undermining the rights of religious minorities. But since its passage, twenty-one states have passed state RFRAs, and the laws have been used to defend employment discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, deny health care coverage for employees, claim exemptions to civil rights law, and complicate justice in child labor and abuse cases.  


The Do No Harm Act would prevent the RFRA law from being used to deny:


  • Protection against discrimination laws or the promotion of equal opportunity, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws;
  • Workplace protections or protections against child abuse;
  • Healthcare access, information, referrals, provisions, coverage or services to which persons are otherwise legally entitled;
  • Services that the government has contracted to be provided to beneficiaries through a government contract, grant, or cooperative agreement; and
  • Accommodations or other benefits and services provided by the government.


In addition to Harris, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).


 The Do No Harm Act is supported by a broad coalition of LGBTQ, civil rights, women’s rights, and faith groups. For a full list of supportive organizations, click here.


For full bill text, click here.