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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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USA: Gay Groups to Boehner – Stop Wasting Money Defending DOMA

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Gay Groups to Boehner - Stop Wasting Money Defending DOMAEleven LGBT groups on Tuesday called on House Speaker John Boehner to stop wasting money defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.

After the Department of Justice announced it would no longer defend the law in court, Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, directed the so-called Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) to step in. BLAG hired former Solicitor General Paul Clement to argue more than a dozen cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, which bans federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

Last week, CQ Roll Call reported that Republican House leaders in September quietly raised the budget to defend the law from $1.5 to $2 million.

Authored By Carlos Santoscoy – See the Full Story at On Top Magazine

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USA: Pelosi Criticizes House GOP Spending on DOMA Case

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Nancy Pelosi Criticizes House GOP Spending on DOMA CaseHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday criticized legal spending to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law which bans federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

At the director of House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, the so-called Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) stepped in to defend the law in court after the Obama administration declined to do so, saying it believes the law is unconstitutional. BLAG hired former Solicitor General Paul Clement and authorized a $1.5 million budget.

“It is unconscionable for Speaker Boehner and Republican leaders, including Chairman Dan Lungren who authorized the contracts with the outside law firm, to continue to stand on the wrong side of history at taxpayer expense,” said Pelosi in a statement.

Authored By Carlos Santoscoy – See the Full Story at On Top Magazine

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USA: John Boehner Appeals DOMA Case to Supreme Court

Friday, June 29th, 2012

USA: John Boehner Appeals DOMA Case to Supreme CourtHouse Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) attorneys on Friday formally appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court an appeals court decision determining the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, according to a Democratic aide.

Drew Hammill, spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told the Washington Blade on Friday afternoon Republicans had notified Democratic leadership that House counsel filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The court ruling that was appealed was the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the cases of Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, which was filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Department of Health & Human Services.

Full Story from LGBTQ Nation

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USA: Boehner Appoints NOM Co-Founder to Commission on Religious Freedom

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday appointed Robert George, co-founder and chairman emeritus of the National Organization for Marriage, to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, which, according to the Commission’s chairman, addresses “the challenges of religious extremism, intolerance, and repression throughout the world.”

The appointment was announced on the same day the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released previously sealed documents detailing how NOM has pursued “a divisive, intolerant, and racially-charged strategy to stop marriage equality in the United States.”

“For the Speaker to appoint someone who embodies NOM’s deep seated anti-gay animus is the wrong thing to do,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

Full Story from LGBTQ Nation

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USA: Boehner Takes Heat From Both Sides on DOMA Defense

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

John Boehner, DOMA DefenseHouse speaker John Boehner is being criticized from both sides over his defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

On Monday, House sponsors of a bill which would repeal the 1996 law which defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies filed a third request with Boehner’s office asking for members to be briefed on the status of the defense.

“[W]e have long believed that DOMA is unconstitutional,” the letter states. “There simply is no legitimate federal interest served by denying married same-sex couples the federal responsibilities and rights that other married couples receive, and the harm caused to these families is unjustifiable. Two federal courts have agreed, and it is no longer credible to claim that the law is not constitutionally suspect.”

Full Story from On Top Magazine

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DC: Boehner to Intervene in Troops’ DOMA Lawsuit?

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

DOMA Lawsuit and John BoehnerA Republican-led House panel may intervene as soon as next week against litigation that aims to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that it unfairly prohibits gay troops from obtaining benefits for their same-sex spouses.

The litigation, known as McLaughlin v. Panetta, was filed on behalf of gay troops and veterans by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Chadbourne & Parke LLC. It’s pending before the District Court of Massachusetts.

Christopher Man, counsel at Chadbourne & Parke LLC, told the Blade via email on Saturday he believes the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, led by House Speaker John Boehner, is “likely to intervene soon, possibly as soon as next week” and plaintiffs will oppose the intervention.

Full Story from The Washington Blade

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House GOP Appeals DOMA Decision in California

Friday, February 24th, 2012

DOMA Ruling AppealOn Wednesday a federal court struck down Section 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional. Today GOP House Speaker John Boehner ordered that ruling appealed.

In court papers, a group of congressional Republicans defending the federal gay marriage ban revealed they are appealing the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit will become the second federal appeals court to now consider the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 16-year-old law known as DOMA.

The Obama administration has sided with Golinski in the case, arguing that DOMA is unconstitutional. Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, have jumped in to defend the law, filing the notice of appeal on Friday. With cases unfolding in several federal courts, many experts predict the issue will wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Full Story from Joe.My.God

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What Debt Crisis? Boehner Triples DOMA Defense Funding

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Defense of Marriage ActAmerican taxpayers may now have to cover legal defense of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by House Republicans to the tune of $1.5 million, after a limit on the amount attorney Paul Clement could charge the goverment was increased this week from $500,000, Think Progress LGBT reports:

The [House of Representatives] agrees to pay [Clement’s law firm] for all services to be rendered pursuant to this Agreement a sum not to exceed $750,000.00. It is further understood and agreed that, effective October 1, 2011, the aforementioned $750,000 cap may be raised from time to time up to, but not exceeding, $1.5 million, upon written notice of the [House] to the [firm].

Clement has already spent the $500K, Think Progress notes.

Full Story from Towleroad.com

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