6 Presidential Candidates Pledge to Support Bill to Protect Gay Marriage Opponents

Reuters/FileRepublican 2016 presidential candidates (L-R) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Donald Trump, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Rand Paul and Ohio Governor John Kasich at the start of the first official Republican debate of the 2016 election in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Six Republican presidential candidates signed a pledge to support a federal bill meant to protect the rights of gay marriage opponents.

Known as the First Amendment Defense Act, the proposed legislation introduced in June is designed to protect critics of gay marriage from facing legal action for their views.

Conservative groups including the American Principles Project, Heritage Action for America, and the Family Research Council affiliate FRC Action created a pledge for candidates to support.

"If elected, I pledge to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and sign it into law during the first 100 days of my term as President," reads the pledge.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz speaks during the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada December 15, 2015.

The conservative group the American Principles Project recently announced that six Republican hopefuls have signed on to their request to sign FADA if elected and to push for its passage.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have signed onto the Project's pledge in support of FADA.

GOP candidates Donald Trump, former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky have expressed support for FADA but did not sign the pledge.

In a letter sent to each candidate regarding the FADA pledge, the conservative groups stressed the possible threat to religious liberty from the legalization of gay marriage.

"Serious scholars suggest religious schools should expect to be punished by the withholding of federal funds under current law if they do not treat same-sex unions as marriages," reads the letter.

"When no less a distinguished legal expert than the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts, has pointed to the serious religious liberty consequences that may stem from the Court's redefinition of marriage, it is time to take the need for new conscience protections seriously."

According to the Project, the four GOP candidates who have not expressed support for FADA are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Ohio Governor John Kasich, former New York Governor George Pataki, and former Governor Jim Gilmore of Virginia.

Introduced in June by Republican Congressman Raúl Labrador of Idaho, FADA seeks to prevent the federal government from punishing opponents of same-sex marriage.

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage," reads the bill in part.

"This Act shall be construed in favor of a broad protection of free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this Act and the Constitution."

Regarding the strong support among GOP candidates for FADA, FRC President Tony Perkins said in a statement released Friday that the bill was necessary given current social climate.

"Every day the American people open their newspapers and read about how their fellow citizens are becoming targets of political correctness," stated Perkins.

"Values voters who make up nearly half of the GOP recognize that our nation is in desperate need of a president who respects what the Constitution plainly states about religious freedom."