• Source: Flickr
  • UPDATED: After Hobby Lobby, Seven Top LGBT And Civil Rights Orgs Drop Support For ENDA

    Seven of the nation's top LGBT and civil rights organizations today have announced they are withdrawing support for ENDA after the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling.

    After 40 years, the LGBT community in part has decided that not only is ENDA not good enough, it's potentially dangerous because the legislation contains strong carve outs for religious organizations. In the wake of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, ENDA could become a license to discriminate rather than the legal protection it was designed to be.

    In a dramatic move today, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announced it was dropping support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Hours later, a coalition of five LGBT legal and civil rights groups -- the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and the Transgender Law Center -- made a similar announcement. (Pride at Work announced they are dropping support after this article was published -- see below.)

    The coalition of five groups calls their request "a simple one."

    UPDATE: HRC Charts Lone Course, Reiterates Support For ENDA Despite Religious Exemptions

    "Do not give religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT people when they have no such right to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information," the group say in a joint statement just released. "Religiously affiliated organizations are allowed to make hiring decisions based on their religion, but nothing in federal law authorizes discrimination by those organizations based on any other protected characteristic, and the rule should be the same for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Religious organizations are free to choose their ministers or faith leaders, and adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression will not change that."

    They say their "concerns are not hypothetical" and that "the American people oppose efforts to misuse religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people."

    Increasingly, this is what employment discrimination against LGBT people looks like. Take the example of Matthew Barrett.  In July 2013, Matthew was offered a job as food services director at Fontbonne Academy, a college prep high school in Milton, Massachusetts that is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.  Fontbonne Academy has employees and admits students of various faiths. Yet, two days after Matthew listed his husband as his emergency contact on the standard employment paperwork, and despite twenty years of work in the food services industry, his job offer was rescinded.  Although nothing about the food services job involved religious rituals or teaching, Matthew was told by an administrator that the school was unable to hire him because “the Catholic religion doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.” The current version of ENDA would authorize this sexual orientation discrimination.

    The groups add that until the "discriminatory exemption is removed so that anti-LGBT discrimination is treated the same as race, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information under federal workplace laws," they think "ENDA should not move forward in Congress."

    That request will likely be granted, as Speaker John Boehner has stated he believes LGBT people -- as do the majority of Americans, wrongly -- are already protected and can't be fired for being LGBT. Boehner refuses to bring ENDA to the floor for a vote.

    "In addition," the coalition states, "we will oppose any similar provisions at the state and local level.  We are hopeful that the many members of Congress who support this historic, critically important legislation will agree that singling out LGBT people for an unequal and unfair exemption from basic workplace protection falls unacceptably short of the civil rights standards that have served our nation well against other types of discrimination for fifty years.  We stand ready and eager to work with them to achieve the long-sought goal of explicit, effective federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people."

    Rea Carey, Executive Director, Task Force Action Fund, adds:

    "The campaign to create broad religious exemptions for employment protections repeats a pattern we¹ve seen before in methodically undermining voting rights, women¹s access to reproductive health and affirmative action. It is time for fair minded people to block this momentum, rather than help speed it into law. We need new federal non-discrimination legislation that contains a reasonable religious accommodation. LGBT people should have the same protections as those contained in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Legal equality is legal equality."

    UPDATE I: HRC releases statement in support of ENDA

    UPDATE II: Pride at Work joins in withdrawing support from ENDA

    Image by Tim Evanson via Flickr


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    • commented 2014-07-08 23:20:34 -0400
      Better a narrow loss than a narrow victory. A narrow loss allows us to regroup, re-educate and re-attempt with an unassailable victory on the rebound. A narrow win on the other hand, empowers our oppoonents to undermine the win to the point where it effectively degenerates into a loss anyway.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree.

    • commented 2014-07-08 23:14:54 -0400
      @derek I would point you to the rest of my sentence, which more accurately illustrates my point. These organizations are saying “we want a fully helpful ENDA than a semi-helpful one.” But my point, and I imagine the HRC’s reasoning is that we don’t have to view it as a zero-sum game. Battles for political rights are rarely won wholesale all the time. It takes small steps toward a greater goal to achieve equality, in the political world we live in. That’s all. I completely and wholeheartedly agree with you that an ENDA with a religious exemption enshrines LGBT discrimination into law as it applies to some people (ie, those employees of nonprofit religious organizations or closely held corporations with religious missions). But we must be realistic. We have no hope of achieving and passing a broad ENDA with no religious exemption. It won’t get past the House and likely not past the Senate. So if we have no hope of achieving that broad ENDA, then why are we going to deny federal anti-discrimination protections to those LGBT employees who do not work for closely held corporations? Are those LGBT employees simply going to be used as a sacrifice until we can one day, in the not foreseeable future, achieve passage of the ENDA that we all hope for—one without religious exemptions?

      The need for protection in the workplace is imminent. If we can bring to the most amount people possible, that is something worth doing, even if we can’t bring to to everybody. When a ship is sinking and you can save some, but not all, of the passengers, you don’t let them all drown just because you couldn’t save them all. You make priorities, draw lines, and achieve the best you can under the circumstances.

      I am not at all pro-discrimination. I just think we all must be more realistic and that the HRC’s position is the most realistic under these circumstances.

    • commented 2014-07-08 22:56:11 -0400
      @robb LEVINE " by withdrawing support for ENDA, even with the Hobby Lobby decision in the backdrop, these LBTQ organizations are saying that they’d rather have all employers permitted to discriminate against LBTQ workers"

      No, it’s saying that we don’t want an ENDA that effectively does that anyway. An ENDA with religious exemption enshrines anti-LGBT discrimination into law.

    • commented 2014-07-08 22:52:06 -0400

      Yes the Supreme Court explicitly said that this case does not concern large, public traded corporations “like IBM and General Electric.” The link is here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf and i am referencing page 35.

      It makes perfect sense that this ruling would not apply to such corporations which are largely governed by hundred, if not millions, of shareholders (who may be corporate entities or other organizational entities themselves) who would largely be unable to form a cohesive religious mission for that corporation. Even if they could, the Court held, the question of whether that type of corporation could assert free exercise rights was not at all decided by the Hobby Lobby ruling, Further, the Court’s majority opinion is littered with references qualifying it’s holding as applying only to “closely held” corporations. So it is indeed a narrow holding, by its explicit terms.

      And for what it’s worth, even assuming that the Hobby Lobby decision does provide a wide berth for religious exemptions to a possible ENDA for closely held corporations, it certainly does not affirmatively “legalize” religious-based discrimination. At best, under those circumstances, one could say that ENDA simply doesn’t prohibit religious-based employment discrimination by closely held corporations. It is a nuanced point and I might hove splitting hairs, but it is technically not accurate to say that Congress is affirmatively legalizing religious-based employment discrimination against LBTQ individuals. To the extent that it is, however, such discrimination is already legal as a matter of federal law. So by withdrawing support for ENDA, even with the Hobby Lobby decision in the backdrop, these LBTQ organizations are saying that they’d rather have all employers permitted to discriminate against LBTQ workers than prohibit much, but not all, of that discrimination. Seeing as how no broader form of ENDA than that which is currently drafted has any realistic chance of succeeding, I think the HRC is simply making the best out of an unfortunate situation. It’s not what any of us would ideally hope form but it’s certainly still better than the status quo.

      We all would like things to be different. But the Supreme Court has spoken. So, in light of what they have said why not hope to do the best that we can? Simply withdrawing support and asking for the whole gamut seems to me to asking for failure, given this current Congress and the lack of success that even this watered-down version of ENDA has received throughout the bill’a lifetime. Undoubtedly, this is exactly why the HRC is still supporting this bill; that doesn’t mean, however, that the HRC is actually opposed to protections for LBTQ employees who work for closely held corporations whose shareholders have developed a religious mission for the corporation….it just means that the HRC recognizes that protections for THOSE LBTQ employees will have to come in another fight.

    • commented 2014-07-08 22:38:56 -0400
      The Hobby Lobby decision as legal precedent, is already being seized upon by religious employers as license to treat LGBT employees however they like. They know all too well how few people have the financial resources to take cashed up employers to court, and risk losing and thereafter having to pay the winning side’s legal costs, which will be considerable because they can afford the best. Regardless of the tightness of the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby wording, it’s clear that SCOTUS has thrown LGBT under the bus in rescission of its narrow ruling overturning DOMA and Prop8 last year, which it clearly regrets.

      The case of the Wisconsin clerk seeking to defend her state’s same sex marriage ban is wending its way back to SCOTUS. A decision in her favour, now more likely after Hobby Lobby, will potentially roll back the DOMA and Prop8 victories of last year.

      It is essential that President Obama’s Executive Order does not allow ANY religious exemption to persecute LGBT minorities. This argument has to be thrashed out once and for all in open debate in a public forum.

    • commented 2014-07-08 22:17:32 -0400
      Having nothing at all is better than an ENDA that legalises religion based persecution of LGBT minorities.

    • commented 2014-07-08 20:33:35 -0400
      The HRC is not harming the gay community. The Hobby Lobby decision applies only to closely-held corporations so while that decision, only arguably, would hinder the effectiveness of ENDA’s purpose as it applies to closely-held corporations with shareholders who hold adverse religious views. It does not, under any stretch imaginable, give large publicly traded corporations like Wal-Mart an exemption to anti-gay discrimination laws, like ENDA, or enable them to discriminate against gay people for any religious reason. Wal-Mart, as far as the Hobby Lobby decision is concerned, is incapable of having any religious view from which it could even try to discriminate. So the HRC is simply trying to salvage a bill that will help many, but admittedly not all, gays in the workplace. It isn’t a perfect world, but why condemn them for trying to achieve at least some federal legislation prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, particularly where no other LGBT group has ever, as of yet, been successful in lobbying for such federal protections.

    • commented 2014-07-08 20:23:32 -0400
      This is not the first time that HRC has openly defied and let down the LGBTQ community. Earlier it had endorsed Susan Collins of Maine for re-election and her record is weak at best. I will no longer support HRC and will block them from my e-mail. HRC has gone downhill this last year dramatically.

    • commented 2014-07-08 20:14:25 -0400
      I’m sorry…what does Hobby Lobby have to do with these organizations changing their mind about supporting ENDA? Even the example cited in the article is completely off-point, if the author is attempting to assert that the ruling in Hobby Lobby will somehow render language in a draft of EDNA written prior to the Hobby Lobby decision too vulnerable to overbroad interpretations of religious exemptions. The Hobby Lobby ruling applies to closely-held corporations, not anything like the Catholic Church (the employer in the example quoted by the author). Is it that certain language exempting religious employers was inserted into ENDA after the Hobby Lobby ruling? If so, this article is not at all clear. In any case, it is difficult to see what these organizations’ decision have to do with Hobby Lobby at all, except to say that both have backdrops in the broad American culture war. Maybe I’m crazy.

    • commented 2014-07-08 19:48:51 -0400
      The sovereign citizen movement is a loose grouping of American litigants, commentators, tax protesters and financial scheme promoters. Self-described……….I guess We LGBT PEOPLE SHOULD FIGHT FOR SOVEREIGN CITIZEN SHIPTHEN we will be above and over being equal…we work we pay taxes..as a Sovereign we get free medical no paying taxes and yes better protection in americal…along with not having to pay for a driver lic or insurance..and can marry whom we please

    • commented 2014-07-08 19:14:37 -0400
      I agree with the organizations. No one should be able to opt out of treating all people as equals. The argument from religious exemption is an excuse to continue discriminating against LGBTQ individuals.

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