Distancing Itself From ENDA’s Religious Exemptions, HRC Calls For LGBT Civil Rights Bill


Enduring 24 hours of attacks from many in the the LGBT community after eight LGBT legal and civil rights groups withdrew support for ENDA, HRC lays out its vision for the future.

The Human Rights Campaign has never been beloved by the entirety of the LGBT community -- no organization has. But despite its boasts of 1.5 million members, HRC is often lambasted by many in the community it serves, and any opportunity to chastise the 34-year old group is rarely overlooked.

But HRC often is its own worst enemy, from finding messaging, transparency, and partnering with grassroots, state, and local groups challenging, to its less than equal, and at times ugly treatment of the transgender community, to recent claims that it used models hired by a PR agency to represent itself at a gay pride parade.

This week has been no picnic for HRC either. Propelled by the twists in the Hobby Lobby decision, Tuesday morning the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announced it was withdrawing support for ENDA over the legislation's extensive (some might say, extreme) carve outs for the religious community. A few short hours later, a coalition of five LGBT legal and civil rights groups announced they too were dropping support of ENDA for the same reason. And later, two more groups announced they were jumping off the ENDA bandwagon. In total, thanks to the Supreme Court's twisted Hobby Lobby ruling, eight LGBT orgs announced they were dumping ENDA.

But HRC stood tall and steadfast, reiterating the support they announced in June, and adding, “HRC supports ENDA because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people." The religious "protections" were not mentioned.

Wednesday was a new day, and in a rare, fast move that afternoon the nation's largest LGBT organization published an op-ed by President Chad Griffin at Buzzfeed and republished it on its own blog. 

Griffin, the Arkansas native behind the successful demise of California's Prop 8, called for continued support of ENDA, but with the religious carve outs minimized. Even better, Griffin laid out what for HRC seems like a new vision for equality -- one fought for by many progressives in the LGBT community who until now had been shut out of the mainstream.

Griffin wrote that "regardless of whether or not ENDA passes in this session of Congress, it is time for the LGBT movement to throw its weight behind a fully comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill. A bill that, at long last, would bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in all core civil rights categories—including housing, public accommodations, credit, education and, if ENDA fails to pass, in employment. This is a visionary idea that Congresswoman Bella Abzug brought to Congress in 1974. Its time has come."

And he reiterated his support of some form of ENDA.

"HRC supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for a very simple reason," Griffin stated. "It will guarantee millions of LGBT people in all 50 states explicit, reliable protections from discrimination in the workplace. We call on our allies in Congress to improve this bill’s overly broad religious exemption. A strong ENDA is worth fighting for because we cannot ignore the urgent need of countless LGBT people who do not have the luxury of waiting for these protections."

And he observes, "we also can’t ignore that somewhere in between the introduction of this version of ENDA and today, a revolution has happened in the fight for LGBT equality."

We’re at one of those moments you read about in the history books, and it turns up everywhere you look. From the tireless advocate-President who sits at the Resolute desk in the Oval Office every day, to the transgender teenager in the heart of Mississippi who, today, can look with hope to Laverne Cox on TV. Public opinion is rocketing forward toward support for equality. A new pro-equality court ruling is issued almost every day. Straight Americans in the heartland today weep supportive tears at the weddings of their gay and lesbian neighbors. Together we have all worked to shift the ground beneath our feet, and an overwhelming national sense has emerged that the tide of history is turning toward full equality for all.

Griffin's vision for the LGBT community can be summed up in his conclusion.

"In other words, it’s time for full LGBT civil rights to come out of the closet. We all agree that, at the end of the day, full federal equality is the only acceptable option, nothing more, nothing less. The campaign for a strong ENDA continues with more urgency than ever before, but we’ve got to dig in for the fight of our lives."

Many disagree with HRC on ENDA, believing that the legislation could be used as a license to discriminate thanks to its extreme religious "protections," especially after the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, and its subsequent actions that revealed claims of a "narrow" ruling were false.


 Image by Cary Lee via Flickr