Good News: ENDA Passes Senate Committee – Bad News: Dangerous Religious Exemptions Attached

Good News, Bad News

Today in  just a little over 15 minutes, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee voted 15-7 to report the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to the full Senate. The 12 Democrats on the committee were joined by three Republicans — Sens. Mark Kirk (Ill.), a co-sponsor of the bill, Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) (both a shock) — in voting to advance the bill.

Speaking to reporters, Murkowski said the outpouring of support for ENDA from her constituents helped influence her vote.

“When I was home over the break, I think it was 1,174 postcards were delivered to my office from Alaskans from around the state in support of ENDA,” Murkowski said. “If you listen to your folks back home this is important to them.”

The only GOP senator present who voted against sending the bill t was the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander. The other six “no” votes were cast by proxy. Even Alexander, though, said nothing against the bill. To the contrary, he praised changes and compromises made to the bill already, suggested more that he would like to see, and praised the bill’s sole Republican sponsor on the committee and said that he will put forth three more amendments when the bill finally hits the floor.

One of the compromises made were the very broad religious exemptions written into the bill that if pass unchanged will actually write LGBT discrimination into law by exempting religious businesses, organizations and institutions from obeying it.

It was a big, bipartisan win, and we’re going this ride momentum to 60 votes by September,” Tico Almeida of Freedom to Work who helped write the exemptions said. “We think we can get to 60 votes in the Senate in September — possibly October if it takes that long.

The question is though at what cost.

The exemptions in ENDA mirror those of TitleVII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This Act shall not apply to a corporation, association, educational institution or institution of learning, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pursuant (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.) to section 702(a) or 703(e)(2) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 2000e-1(a), 2000e-2(e)(2)).

The troubling thing is that the exemptions written for Title VII were for differences of faith.  Not to discriminate against an entire subset of people.  It did not allow religious institutions to discriminate against women or blacks.  It only gave hiring preferences to members of the same faith.

In a recent editorial in the New York Times it was made clear that ENDA’s religious exemption “is far too broad and needs to be scaled back.” To quote the New York Times editorial:

…the exemption – extending well beyond just houses of worship to hospitals and universities, for example, and encompassing medical personnel, billing clerks and others in jobs that are not directly involved in any religious function – amounts to a license to engage in the discrimination that ENDA is meant to remedy.

And while Congress did not include a definition of the § 702(a) term “religious corporation” in Title VII, at least one judge has argued that the legislative history indicates that Congress intended “the § 703(e)(2) exemption to require a lesser degree of association between an entity and a religious sect than what would be required under § 702(a).”  See LeBoon v. Lancaster Jewish Cmty. Ctr., 503 F.3d 217, 237 (3d Cir. 2007) (Rendell, J., dissenting).

Another dangerous aspect of ENDA’s religious exemptions is that it legitimatizes the statements made by those in the extreme right against the LGBT community that being gay is wrong and sets a precedent for all further LGBT legislation.

And there are other problems.

In 2001 ,President Bush’s Executive Orders 13198 and 13199 created and set out organizational guidelines for a White House Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives.

In 2002, the most controversial Executive Order was issued – Executive Order 13279 – made it easier for churches and other faith-based organizations to receive federal money by letting them circumvent certain anti-discrimination laws.  Under the umbrella of the Faith-Based Initiative, the Bush administration began allowing discrimination with federal money for the first time since the 1960s.  Executive Order 13279, Equal Protection of the Laws for Faith-Based and Community Organizations,  issued on December 12, 2002, provides that certain faith-based organizations that provide social programs can deliver those services and make hiring decisions on the basis of their religious beliefs even if they receive federal funding.

But none of this you are hearing from either Freedom to Work or the Human Rights Campaign who both 100 percent support the religious exemptions so that ENDA passes using the “Its better to pass something rather than nothing at all” mentality.

Id this reallt the ENDA that we have fought over 30 years for?

I’ll be on The Becky Juro Show, July 11th at 8:00 p.m. to discuss the religious exemption problems as well as others that are not being reported by our gay media.






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