LGBT advocacy groups withdraw support for ENDA over religious exemption clause

LGBT advocacy groups withdraw support for ENDA over religious exemption clause

In the aftermath of the recent Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision, LGBT advocacy groups are withdrawing their support of ENDA, passed last fall in the US Senate but currently languishing in the House.

The American Civil Liberties Union issued this statement via press release:

The provision in the current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that allows religious organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity has long been a source of significant concern to us.

Given the types of workplace discrimination we see increasingly against LGBT people, together with the calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds that followed immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has become clear that the inclusion of this provision is no longer tenable.

It would prevent ENDA from providing protections that LGBT people desperately need and would make very bad law with potential further negative effects.

Therefore, we are announcing our withdrawal of support for the current version of ENDA.

From Executive Director Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

“If a private company can take its own religious beliefs and say you can’t have access to certain health-care, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to an interpretation that a private company could have religious beliefs that LGBT people are not equal or somehow go against their beliefs and therefore fire them. We disagree with that trend. The implications of Hobby Lobby are becoming clear…We do not take this decision lightly. We’ve been pushing for this bill for 20 years.”

In addition, a coalition comprised of the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights issued a joint statement that they also would be withdrawing support.

According to the statement, the legislation’s current religious exemptions clause is so broadly written that “ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations – including hospitals, nursing homes and universities – a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people.”

LGBT activists are now advocating adding the four words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure fair protections for all LGBT folks.