LGBT groups pull support of ENDA

Several LGBT groups are putting pressure on President Obama not to include broad religious exemptions in an executive order he plans to sign protecting LGBT employees from discrimination by federal contractors. And one major LGBT group has pulled support for an employment protection bill making its way through Congress as long as it includes broad religious exemptions.

The actions come in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, the result of which allowed for-profit corporations to be exempt from a law if it violates their religious beliefs. The ruling has caused anxiety for LGBT groups, as it could lead to widespread discrimination against the LGBT community.

The Equality Federation, a national advocacy organization that supports state-based LGBT advocacy organizations, sent a letter to President Obama today calling on him not to include broad religious exemptions in his executive order protecting LGBT employees from discrimination by federal contractors.

“We ask you to make a clear statement that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is no different from the other classes protected by federal law by ensuring that the executive order not contain any exemption beyond what is provided by the Constitution and Title VII,” the letter states.

Georgia Equality is on board with the Equality Federation, as they stated in a Facebook post earlier this afternoon.

And in a major announcement today, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force is withdrawing their support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act over the—you guessed it—religious exemption currently included in the bill.

“The morning after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, we all woke up in a changed and intensified landscape of broad religious exemptions being used as an excuse to discriminate. We are deeply concerned that ENDA’s broad exemption will be used as a similar license to discriminate across the country. We are concerned that these types of legal loopholes could negatively impact other issues affecting LGBT people and their families including marriage, access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and access to other reproductive health services. As one of the lead advocates on this bill for 20 years, we do not take this move lightly but we do take it unequivocally – we now oppose this version of ENDA because of its too-broad religious exemption. We cannot be complicit in writing such exemptions into federal law,” said Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund.

The Senate approved ENDA with bipartisan support last November, but House Republicans say they will not take up the bill unless there are broad religious exemptions.

UPDATE: Five national legal groups have also announced they are withdrawing support of ENDA.  The American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Transgender Law Center issued a joint statement this afternoon, saying in part:

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.  The provision essentially says that anti-LGBT discrimination is different – more acceptable and legitimate – than discrimination against individuals based on their race or sex.  If ENDA were to pass and be signed into law with this provision, the most important federal law for the LGBT community in American history would leave too many jobs, and too many LGBT workers, without protection.  Moreover, it actually might lessen non-discrimination protections now provided for LGBT people by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and very likely would generate confusion rather than clarity in federal law.  Finally, such a discrimination provision in federal law likely would invite states and municipalities to follow the unequal federal lead.  All of this is unacceptable. | @patricksaunders