religious privilege

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The Most Dangerous Line in the Hobby Lobby Ruling

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Hobby LobbyThe most dangerous line in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby doesn’t come until page 46. It reads as follows:

The principal dissent raises the possibility that discrimination in hiring, for example on the basis of race, might be cloaked as religious practice to escape legal sanction. Our decision today provides no such shield. The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race, and prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.

That doesn’t sound too bad; indeed, it is probably one of the few statements in Justice Alito’s opinion that many of us would endorse.

Its danger, particularly to the LGBT community, rests in what is not said.

As we have discussed at length, Hobby Lobby allowed a family-run, for-profit arts and crafts company to deny its female employees access to certain contraception simply because that contraception violates the religious beliefs of the company owners.

GinsburgJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent cautioned that the Court was opening a door to allow anyone to use the pretext of religion to opt out of antidiscrimination or public accommodations laws. Justice Alito’s response was to deny the charge, arguing that where the government has a compelling interest in preventing discrimination, as it does in preventing discrimination on the basis of race, the Hobby Lobby exemption would not succeed.

But what happens when the government does not have that “compelling interest”?

Authored By Ari Ezra Waldman – See the Full Story at Towleroad.com

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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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“Religious Exemption” is Really “Religious Privilege”

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Sue O'ConnellWe have been oh so careful. How many times have we assured religious leaders that marriage equality will not mean that Catholic priests will have to start performing marriages between two lesbians? How many times have we bit our lip when a religious school has fired a gay person because he didn’t set the correct example? How many times have we crafted laws to clearly allow religious organizations an out — a way to circumvent the law because of their strongly held anti-gay religious beliefs?

We were careful because the LGBT community understood the tensions between religion and being LGB or T. Many of us are — or were — religious people. Many of us have been rejected by our faith leaders. Many of us have been rejected by our families because of their religious faith.

We grew a tolerance to the anti-gay parts of our religion, or we found a more accepting faith. We accepted our Catholic grandmother’s anti-gay sentiment as “religious conviction” even though she seemed supportive of our brother’s divorce.

Last week, the United States Supreme Court rewarded our thoughtfulness with a slap.

Authored By Sue O’Connell – See the Full Story at The Dallas Voice

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