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Congressman Jared Polis Files ENDA Discharge Petition

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Colorado Representative Jared PolisThe openly gay House member from Colorado is filing a discharge petition to force a House vote on the Employment Non Discrimination Act.

Towleroad.com reports:

Out Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) announced today that he has filed a discharge petition in the House of Representatives for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Polis is the chief sponsor of ENDA and is also the co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus. From Rep. Polis’ statement: A discharge petition is a procedure to force a vote on legislation if it receives signatures from the majority of the House of Representatives. This move comes after the House Republican leadership has continued to refuse to hold a vote on this bipartisan bill. “This is common sense legislation that is supported by a majority of Americans and was passed overwhelmingly by the United States Senate,” said Rep. Polis. “The Republicans have been dragging their feet on this bill for too long, allowing workplace discrimination against hardworking LGBT Americans to continue.

This new version of ENDA would include a narrower religious exemption.

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President Obama Signs Executive Order on LGBT Employment

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

President Obama HRC

Photo courtesy Pink News

President Obama signed the long-awaited executive order on LGBT employment yesterday.

LGBT Weekly reports:

Today in a White House ceremony, President Obama signed a sweeping executive order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers from job discrimination… In the executive order, President Obama explicitly protects transgender federal employees from workplace discrimination by amending an order issued by President Bill Clinton banning sexual orientation discrimination within the federal workforce. In the same order, President Obama set strong new standards for federal contractors, which employ 20 percent of the American workforce. In so doing, the Obama administration has guaranteed that 14 million more American workers will be protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In the part that applies to federal contractors, the Obama administration declined to create a separate carve-out or standard for LGBT employees. Instead, the President elected to narrowly amend Executive Order 11246, first signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965—placing sexual orientation and gender identity on equal footing with race, color, religion, sex and national origin, and thus making these protections virtually politically impossible for a future administration to undo.

Ari Ezra Waldman at Towleroad.com looks at the possible complications with the Hobby Lobby ruling:

I can imagine the following scenario unfolding: The federal government seeks bids on a contract and chooses the one from Apostles Corp., a web design company. Apostles Corp. is a private, for-profit company run by members of a conservative religious family who oppose homosexuality and refuse to hire any gay persons. The company declines to sign the federal government’s nondiscrimination pledge and is, therefore, denied the contract. Apostles sues in federal court on a theory similar to Hobby Lobby’s: the behavior mandated by EO 11478 violates Apostles’ rights as a “corporate person” under RFRA and Hobby Lobby, which guarantee that generally applicable laws cannot substantially burden a person’s or company’s religious freedom. A broad interpretation of Hobby Lobby would expand that decision from contraception and health care and bloat religious “freedom” to allow religion to be used as a pretext to discriminate against anyone and anything a particular religion doesn’t like.

And what about religious privileges?

Andrew Sullivan at the Dish reports:

Notably, the draft of Obama’s order contains no additional religious exemptions for the sexual orientation or gender identity provisions beyond those already contained in the existing executive orders, a request made by some religiously affiliated leaders. At the same time, however, the order does not take action requested by some civil rights groups to rescind an executive order issued by President George W. Bush. The Bush order provides an exemption to Executive Order 11246 for any “religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society” that allows such contractors to hire people of “a particular religion.”

It’s a big step forward, and it was done in a way that will make it hard for a future President to undo.

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President Obama to Sign LGBT Employment Executive Order Monday Without Religious Privilege

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

President Barack ObamaPresident Obama will sign the long-awaited executive order on monday, preventing federal contractors form discriminating against LGBT workers.

The Washington Blade reports:

President Obama is set on Monday to take executive action to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees working for federal contractors and the federal government, the Washington Blade has learned. In a conference call with reporters on Friday, senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obama plans to amend existing executive orders barring discrimination against workers to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Obama intends to amend Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, to add the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, Obama plans to amend Executive Order 11478, which prohibits discrimination in the federal civilian workplace — and was already amended by President Clinton to include sexual orientation — to include gender identity.

Although there will be no religious privileges included in the order. an older executive order still applies to some groups:

No further exemption for religious entities will be included in the executive order, but the update also won’t repeal President George W. Bush’s amendment to EO 11246, which allows religious-affiliated federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of religion, officials said. “You can use religion to only hire people who share your religion, but you can’t discriminate against somebody who is of your faith who happens to be LGBT, unless they fall within the ministerial exemption,” officials said.

It’s great that the President is doing this, but it’s both a sad commentary on the inability of congress (because of conservative stalling) to take any action on the matter for how many years now? And it could be reversed with the stroke of a pen by the next conservative President.

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National LGBT Groups Drop ENDA Support

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

New Human Rights Campaign President Ready to Wade Into More Marriage Equality FightsIt started yesterday with an announcement from NGLTF.

LGBTQ Nation reports:

Six of the nation’s leading LGBT rights advocacy groups on Tuesday announced they were withdrawing their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), fearing that broad religious exemptions included in the current bill could compel private companies to cite objections similar to those that prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week.

The withdrawal was first announced earlier Tuesday by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and by mid-afternoon the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and the Transgender Law Center issued a joint statement that they would no longer support the current version of ENDA because it provides “religiously affiliated organizations … a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people.”

The issue has been simmering for awhile, but the Hobby Lobby decision last week brought it to a boil.

Towleroad.com reports from the NGLTF press release:

“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.”

The lone hold-out? HRC.

Pink News reports:

Despite the shift, the Human Rights Campaign – which tackled anti-gay discrimination – has maintained support for the bill. Human Rights Campaign Vice President Fred Sainz said yesterday: “HRC supports ENDA because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”

Is HRC hanging on because it has spent years and years failing to get this thing passed, and now fears seeing the whole thing go down in flames?

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President Obama Will Sign LGBT Employment Executive Order

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

President Barack ObamaPresident Obama will finally sign an executive order requiring that all companies who contract with the federal government must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Think Progress reports:

The order, expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, is an extension of orders previously issued by past presidents — most recently Johnson — similarly banning employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin among all contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in business with the government in any one year. The protections will reach over one million LGBT workers across the country, making it the single largest expansion of LGBT workplace protections in our country’s history. There continue to be 29 states that offer no employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and 32 with no protections based on gender identity, but many LGBT workers in those states will now have workplace protections for the first time ever.

A new HRC poll shows that 63% favor a law protecting the LGBT community in the workplace.

LGBT Weekly reports:

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) today released new public opinion research that conclusively demonstrates strong public support for federal non-discrimination workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers. A national survey of 1,200 registered voters conducted June 6-10, 2014 by TargetPoint Consulting found that 63 percent of those surveyed favor a federal law that protects gay and transgender people from employment discrimination while only 25 percent oppose it. Enthusiasm for this is especially strong among supporters: 42 percent strongly favor it, while only 16 percent strongly oppose.

And Senator Orrin Hatch has the gall to ask the President to put conditions on his order, after helping to block the passage of ENDA for how many years?

The Washington Blade reports:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is calling for the executive order that President Obama is poised to sign barring LGBT discrimination among federal contractors to include a religious exemption along the lines of the pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Hatch made the comments via a statement to the Washington Blade in response to a request to comment on the directive, which the White House on Monday announced President Obama intends to sign. “While the specifics of this executive order are not yet clear, I believe it must include the same religious protections that are included in the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act that passed the Senate,” Hatch said.

OMG, the balls it must take to stand up and say that with a straight face (pun intended).

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What Could Sink ENDA?

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Love this new cartoon from The Washington Blade:

Sink ENDA

Is It Time to Pull the Plug on ENDA?

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Gay RightsToday, with thanks, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the introduction of Bella Abzug’s extraordinary comprehensive gay civil rights bill to Congress, known as the Equality Act of 1974, and we call all who are silent, to speak out for the demise of its flawed inadequate substitute, The Employment Non Discrimination Act.

” 1974 – On May 14 U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.), in collaboration with the National Gay Task Force (Task Force), introduced the Equality Act of 1974, a federal bill to ban discrimination against lesbians, gay men, unmarried persons and women in employment, housing and public accommodations. ”

While we were not successful in passing the Congresswoman’s legislation, we have also not been successful in enacting any legislation in its stead. And to make matters worse with 40 years behind us, we have failed as an LGBT movement to even set the unified benchmark for a full equality civil rights bill for LGBTI people. Instead we have a multi-million dollar organization proclaiming entitlement to helm half baked Employment Discrimination legislation, so fraught with religious exemptions, that if it passes the House (it has passed the Senate) it will be the new DADT or DOMA for our next generation – via institutionalized discrimination. I am not sure the late Bella Abzug would have approved. In fact I am almost sure, she would have condemned it.

Authored By Melanie Nathan – See the Full Story at Gay USA

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USA: A Few ENDA Updates

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Washington DC LegislatureNow that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has passed the US Senate, we have a few follow-ups for you.

First off, Mormons helped pass ENDA in the Senate.

The New York Times reports:

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who at 79 is one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, became the first Republican to signal he would reverse his opposition as the bill faced a crucial vote in committee. He voted against a similar bill the last time it came up in the Senate — 17 years ago — but changed his mind earlier this year after Gordon H. Smith, a fellow Mormon and former Republican senator, convinced him there was nothing in it that violated church doctrine. “The church does want to be helpful where we can be, without violating our own conscience,” Mr. Smith, a former bishop, said in an interview. And as the bill approached a vital vote earlier this week, Senator Dean Heller, the Nevada Republican who has taught Sunday school at his Mormon church, provided the crucial 60th vote to break a filibuster. In the end, all but two of the Senate’s seven Mormons voted yes.

This newfound support for LGBT rights pointedly does NOT extend to marriage equality.

Openly gay House representative Jared Polis believes the bill would pass the House, if Boehner would bring it to a vote.

The Washington Blade reports:

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay and co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, predicted during an interview with the Washington Blade Friday that ENDA would pass the House and said the next step for the bill is to pressure Republican leaders to bring it to the floor. He added that a number of undeclared Republicans have privately told him they’d vote “yes.” “The next step is, of course, to continue to apply pressure to the speaker and the majority leader to bring it to the floor, where I’m confident it has enough support to pass,” Polis said. “The best way to do that is to demonstrate it has that support and continuing to add co-sponsors, particularly more Republican co-sponsors to ENDA so that we can have a stronger case to make that we need to bring it before the House to the floor for a vote.”

President Obama is thinking along similar lines.

On Top Magazine reports:

“Today’s victory is a tribute to all those who fought for this progress ever since a similar bill was introduced after the Stonewall riots more than three decades ago.”
“Now it’s up to the House of Representatives,” the president added. “This bill has the overwhelming support of the American people, including a majority of Republican voters, as well as many corporations, small businesses and faith communities. They recognize that our country will be more just and more prosperous when we harness the God-given talents of every individual.”

What do you guys think about the current version of ENDA? On the one hand, it is transgender inclusive, and would offer protections not available before to LGBT workers. OTOH, its religious exemptions are overly broad, and could lead to problems down the road. Where do you stand?

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USA: ENDA Passes the US Senate 64-32

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Congress - Capitol BuildingIt’s official – the Employment Non Discrimination Act now goes to the House.

SDGLN reports:

The U.S. Senate today voted, 64-32, with bi-partisan support, to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. The law would ban job discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed the bill on July 10, 2013, with Republicans Orrin Hatch, Mark Kirk and Lisa Murkowski supporting the proposed law. This is the first time ENDA has been voted on in the Senate in 17 years and the first time a trans-inclusive ENDA has received a vote.

Any chance Boehner allows a vote?

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USA: The Employment Non Discrimination Act Cleared for Final Vote in senate

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

CongressThis just in from the US Senate.

The Advocate reports:

In a procedural vote intended to conclude debate, the Senate voted in favor of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire, or declining to promote a worker simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A bipartisan coalition of 64 senators voted to move ENDA forward, clearing the way for an affirmative final vote, expected to occur around 1:45 p.m. Eastern today. 33 Republican Senators cast “no” votes against the bill.

An amendment to further broaden religious protections was also shot down:

As debate came to a close Thursday afternoon, senators voted down an amendment from Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey that would have expanded the number of groups and individuals who could discriminate against LGBT people based on religious beliefs failed by a vote of 43-55. Toomey, who voted to invoke cloture and begin debate on the bill earlier this week, said he believed his amendment made an effort to relieve tension between “two vitally important American values”: equality and religious liberty. In explaining how his amendment would affect the scope of the law, Toomey noted that some religious-run organizations take part in secular activities but should still be exempted from adhering to ENDA’s nondiscrimination orders.

Final vote due shortly.

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