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Did ENDA’s Broad Religious Exemption Just Get Broader?

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

CongressSome LGBT rights groups were already worried about the overly broad religious exemption language in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

With two supportive republicans not available for the vote on Monday, two other Republicans came on board, but apparently their price was even broader exemptions.

Melanie Nathan at O-blog-dee-o-blog-da reports:

The price for Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) was an amendment to ensure that discriminating religious entities which exercise the exemption would not be unduly burdened or penalized by Federal, State or local governments:

“A religious employer’s exemption under this Act shall not result in any action by a Federal government agency, or any state or local government agency that receives Federal funding or financial assistance, to penalize or withhold licenses, permits, certifications, accreditation, contracts, grants, guarantees, tax-exempt status, or any benefits or exemptions from that employer, or to prohibit the employer’s participation in programs or activities sponsored by that Federal, state, or local government agency. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to invalidate any other federal, state, or local law or regulation that otherwise applies to an employer exempt under this section.”

The New York Times also rips the religious exemptions in the bill:

The Employment Nondiscrimination Act, however, has a significant flaw — a terribly broad religious exemption. The exemption would extend beyond churches and other houses of worship to any religiously affiliated institution, like hospitals and universities, and would allow those institutions to discriminate against people in jobs with no religious function, like billing clerks, cafeteria workers and medical personnel. The exemption — which was inserted to appease some opponents who say the act threatens religious freedom — is a departure from the approach of earlier civil rights laws. And though the law would protect millions of workers from bias, the exemption would give a stamp of legitimacy to the very sort of discrimination the act is meant to end. Any attempt to further enlarge the exemption should be rejected.

Despite these unprecedented religious protections, Catholics are still trying to kill the bill.

Think Progress reports:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has come out against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, asserting that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is essential to Catholics’ religious liberty. In a letter to Senators, the Bishops claimed to oppose discrimination, but then explained why they cannot support ENDA. Here are the five reasons they cite:

There Is No Exemption For “Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications”: With the exception of race, other protected classes like sex, religion, and national origin allow for discrimination in the case of “bona fide occupational qualifications” (BFOO), essentially leaving room for jobs in which a particular identity is necessary to perform the job. The Bishops argue that this exemption must be extended to sexual orientation, asserting that there are cases “where it is neither unjust nor inappropriate to consider an applicant’s sexual inclinations.” In other words, the Church should be free to discriminate against employees based on their private sexual behavior because some jobs require heterosexuality. They cite no such examples.

Think Progress also has a nice piece on the history of conservatives’ efforts to protect religious discrimination:

Here’s a look back at how ENDA’s religious exemption was first introduced, how it’s expanded, and how some lawmakers may push to extend it even further.

Religious Exemptions In The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) As ThinkProgress previously explained, ENDA’s current religious exemption refers back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of that law originally prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Title VII contains only one religious exemption, which applies to any “religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society.” Such groups are allowed to make employment decisions on the basis of an individual’s particular religion. The same protection is extended to any “school, college, university, or other educational institution” if the curriculum is “directed toward the propagation of a particular religion.”

So do you think this bill should pass with its current religious protections, or not?

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USA: ENDA Passes Senate Cloture Vote; Prospects Dim in House

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

CongressThe Employment Non Discrimination Act passed a critical vote in the Senate yesterday.

Queerty reports:

The Senate hit the magic number of 60 on Monday morning when Republican Dean Heller of Nevada said that supporting the measure was “the right thing to do.” But at vote time, two of the supporters of the bill, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D.-MO.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R.-AK), were on planes and unavailable for the vote so Sen. Susan Collins (R.-ME) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D.-OR) began lobbying Republicans to make up for the shortfall. (All 55 Senate Democrats had signed on in support previously.) In the end, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who has a gay son and had already come out for marriage equality, agreed to support the bill, along with Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois had already signalled that they would vote to approve the bill.

So, assuming McCaskill and Murkowski would have supported it, that’s 9 Republicans for LGBT employment protections.

One of them, GOP Senator Mark Kirk, gave his first floor speech since a debilitating stroke in 2012 in favor of the bill:

“I have been silent for the past two years due to a stroke, under two years ago. I have risen to speak because I believe so passionately in enacting the ENDA statute. This is not a major change to law. I would say it is already the law in 21 states. I think it’s particularly appropriate for an Illinois Republican to speak on behalf of this measure, in the true tradition of Everett McKinley Dirksen and Abraham Lincoln — men who gave us the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 13th amendment to the Constitution. With that, I would suggest the absence of a quorum.”

Melanie Nathan at O Blog Dee O Blog Da thinks the bill is flawed:

Earlier in the year, NCLR, The Transgender Law Center and others noted: While we applaud the progress that has been made, we stand united in expressing very grave concerns with the religious exemption in ENDA. It could provide religiously affiliated organizations – far beyond houses of worship – with a blank check to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people. Some courts have said that even hospitals and universities may be able to claim the exemption; thus, it is possible that a religiously affiliated hospital could fire a transgender doctor or a religiously affiliated university could terminate a gay groundskeeper. It 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. This sweeping, unprecedented exemption undermines the core goal of ENDA by leaving too many jobs, and LGBT workers, outside the scope of its protections.

Over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan looks at the case for ENDA.

[T]he core of the debate is about whether employers should have the right to determine whether their employees can be out in the workplace. It’s about replacing individual control over one’s sexual orientation and gender identity in the place where most Americans spend the vast bulk of their day with employer control. This can’t be squared with a concern for individual rights. The employee-employer relationship grants the employer immense amounts of power over their workers, who depend on their boss’ good will for their livelihood. Allowing employers power to fire employees who come out of the closet, full stop, subjects LGBT employees to immense coercive pressure. Their most basic right to conscience, the right to express a core part of their identity, is obliterated.

But it may not matter. Before a full Senate vote has even been taken, the King of No has already nixed the idea of a vote in the house.

Edge Boston reports:

But as the good news came in, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Monday that he would oppose the law, claiming that it could be financially destructive for businesses across America, the Huffington Post reports. “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in a statement.

As Rachel Maddow often notes, this is the least productive house in our Nation’s history.

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DADT Repeal Fails 43-56 – Minority Wins Again

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The vote to end the filibuster of the Defense Authorization bill just failed by a vote of 43 – 56. Arkansas Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln voted no, joining every GOPer. (Reid switched his vote to “NO” for procedural reasons.)

I’ll be updating this post.

Here’s what Richard Socarides said earlier today, which sums up the vote: “The whole thing is a political train wreck,” said Richard Socarides, a former White House adviser on gay rights during the Clinton administration. Socarides said President Barack Obama “badly miscalculated” the Pentagon’s support for repeal, while Democrats made only a “token effort” to advance the bill. “If it was a priority for the Democratic leadership, they would get a clean vote on this,” he said.

Full Story from AmericaBlog

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Call Your Senators on DADT Vote Now!

Friday, September 17th, 2010

From Pam’s House Blend:

Blenders, we’ve come down to the “Final Assault” on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Harry Reid has filed for cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains an amendment for DADT repeal. The vote to break the planned Republican filibuster will be on Tuesday afternoon. There are still a few undecideds/unknowns on this issue, and we desperately need your help to push this through.

Call your senators NOW and spread the word.

SENATE VOTE VERY TIGHT: For repeal to happen advocates need one more vote to break John McCain’s filibuster. All supporters must call their senators now.


–Susan Collins (R-ME)
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
–Mark Pryor (D-Ark.);
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Jim Webb (D-VA)
–George Voinovich (R-OH)

Susan Collins D.C. office: (202) 224-2523
Susan Collins Augusta, ME office: (207) 622-8414

Olympia Snowe toll-free number: (800) 432-1599
Olympia Snowe Augusta, ME office: (207) 622-8292

Mark Pryor D.C. office: (202) 224-2353
Mark Pryor Little Rock, AR office: (501) 324-6336

Richard Lugar D.C. office: (202) 224-4814
Richard Lugar Indianapolis, IN office: (317) 226-5555

Judd Gregg D.C. office: (202) 224-3324
Judd Gregg Concord, NH office: (603) 225-7115

Jim Webb D.C. office: 202-224-4024
Jim Webb Richmond, VA office: 804-771-2221

George Voinovich D.C. office: (202) 224-3353
George Voinovich Columbus, OH office: (614) 469-6697

Call your Senators and tell them the following:

OPPOSE a motion to strike the DADT repeal amendment from the National Defense Authorization Act.
OPPOSE any replacement or substitute repeal amendment

OPPOSE any attempt to modify the repeal amendment in the bill

OPPOSE any filibuster attempt

SUPPORT final passage of the bill

****REMEMBER**** Any attempt to modify the repeal amendment, such as by expanding “certification,” IS AN ATTEMPT TO KILL THE DADT REPEAL AMENDMENT.

Come on, Blenders! Let’s help consign this hideous, cruel policy to the trash bin of history!