Senate leaders are pushing ahead with a bill giving special protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.
Supporters say the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, would block discrimination against LGBT individuals in the workplace.
Opponents say it would result in costly, frivolous lawsuits, would mandate federal law based on sexual choices, and would eliminate free speech rights for many businesses.
"ENDA threatens fundamental First Amendment rights. It creates new, subjective protected classes that will expose employers to unimaginable liability," Ryan T. Anderson states in a comprehensive ENDA primer for the Heritage Foundation.
Republican senators are seeking to add broader religious exemptions. They're trying to exempt more faith-based institutions and protect religious employers from retaliation.
But homosexual activists are fighting to have those religious freedom protections stripped.
"We cannot remain silent about the potential harm of the current broad religious exemptions in the bill," Heather Cronk, co-director of the gay activist group GetEQUAL, wrote in an email.
"We must demand what we deserve. This is why GetEQUAL will continue asking for our allies in the Senate to publicly oppose ENDA's broad religious exemption from the Senate floor," she said.
Even with the religious exemptions, Anderson said the bill does not truly protect freedom.
"It is clear that the bill would not exempt those who wish to run their businesses and other organizations in keeping with their moral or religious values," he writes.
"Additionally, ENDA's religious liberty protections extend only to businesses directly run by a church or religious organizations. As a result, other religious business owners would be exposed to significant liabilities."