In an op-ed for Politico, civil rights leader, former chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Julian Bond calls for all Americans to come together to support of LGBT equality and also speaks out against the planned “religious exemptions” that are currently in the version of ENDA (The Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that is to be brought up before Congress.
“ENDA follows in the mold of life-changing civil rights laws that, for decades, have prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, age and disability. However, there are some who feel that ENDA must allow religiously affiliated organizations — far beyond churches, synagogues and mosques — to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people.
We haven’t accepted this in the past, and we must not today. In response to the historic gains of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, opponents argued that their religious beliefs prohibited integration. To be true to their religious beliefs, they argued, they couldn’t serve African-Americans in their restaurants or accept interracial marriages.
Indeed, during consideration of the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964 (and again in 1972), there were attempts to provide religious organizations with a blank check to engage in discrimination in hiring on the basis of race, sex and national origin — like the one now proposed for ENDA — and both times we said no to those efforts. We weren’t willing to compromise on equality. We weren’t willing to say that African-Americans were only mostly equal. Today’s struggles are similar in that we shouldn’t accept only partial equality for LGBT people.
Let me be clear. Religious liberty is one of our most cherished values. It guarantees all of us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs. But it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others. Religious liberty, contrary to what opponents of racial equality argued then and LGBT equality argue now, is not a license to use religion to discriminate.”
The current sweeping and unprecedented religious exemption in ENDA goes far beyond churches, synagogues, and mosques and allows discrimination against LGBT people in any religious associated business. It effectively gives a stamp of legitimacy to LGBT discrimination that our civil rights laws have never given to discrimination based on an individual’s race, sex, national origin, age, or disability and renders ENDA impotent and gives a pass to those who discriminate against the LGBT community the most.
This should not and cannot be allowed.