Some of the biggest LGBT organizations in the field have formally dropped their support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because it allows an exemption for religiously-affiliated employers and institutions.
The organizations who cosigned this announcement are the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the ACLU, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center. Their statement reads that ENDA’s religious exemption clause has long been a source of concern, but “the Supreme Court’s decision on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby has made it clear that religious exemption provisions are ‘no longer tenable.’”
ENDA has been around for decades and reintroduced in many forms, but it has yet to make any real progress in Congress. These organizations say that if it passes as is, it will still leave a substantial number of LGBT employees without workplace protections.
"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," they wrote Tuesday. "Finally, such a discrimination provision in federal law likely would invite states and municipalities to follow the unequal federal lead." …
“Federal legislation to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination is way beyond overdue, but Congress has no place giving religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT workers,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. ”We can no longer support a bill that treats LGBT discrimination as different and somehow more legitimate than other forms of discrimination.”
This could be a serious game-changer. The biggest name in the LGBT game, obviously and unfortunately, is the Human Rights Campaign. ENDA is huge for them right now, which is why we haven’t heard from them yet (and possibly won’t at all). If they come forward with an announcement, that’ll be an even bigger deal.
The absence of any religious exemptions in a potential new ENDA might make it even harder for workplace equality to pass (or even come up for a vote) in a Republican-dominated House, but considering it wasn’t moving as is, at the very least we can hope for a new version that doesn’t deliberately leave some of us out. Even if it takes forever to move, we’ll all be able to stand behind it proudly, knowing we’re not throwing LGBT workers from religious organizations under the bus in the process.