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.
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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."
"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."