The New Civil Rights Movement reports that six major LGBT and Civil Rights organizations have dropped their support for ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, citing potential danger in the legislation, as it offers exemptions for religious organizations.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announced it was dropping support for ENDA today, with 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 making similar announcements hours later.
The reason for doing so was 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 that 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on the standard employment paperwork, and despite twenty years of work in the food services industry, his job offer was rescinded.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.
They 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.”
Surprisingly, that request will likely be granted, but not for the gridlock constipating progress in congress. Speaker John Boehner has stated that he believes that LGBT people are already protected and can’t be fired for being LGBT. As a result, he refuses to bring ENDA up for a vote.
The coalition adds that:
“In addition. 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.”
It’s darkly amusing that most of right-wingers clamoring for the right to discriminate against LGBT people would be the racists and bigots of yesteryear screaming for the right to resist segregation. And if you don’t think it could happen again, give it time.
The Executive Director of the Task Force Action Fund, Rea Carey, added:
“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.”
This is likely a direct result of the Hobby Lobby ruling. Religious exemptions are now seen for what they’ve become: yet another tool for discrimination. And it’s for this reason that the organizations and civil rights groups were right to pull their support for a bill that had discrimination written into it’s text.