ACLU Just Came Out Against Antidiscrimination Law Designed to Protect LGBT

Takepart.com

Tue, 08 Jul 2014 15:51:40 PDT

You know things are getting weird when a prominent civil rights organization opposes a nondiscrimination law. 

In a statement released Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and several LGBT rights organizations withdrew their support for the Employee Non- Discrimination Act, which would protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination. The bill has passed the Senate and awaits response in the House.

Their qualm with the legislation is this: Based on the way ENDA is currently written, religious organizations, the military, and small businesses are not obligated to comply. Meaning, for example, that it could be legal for the principal of a Catholic school to fire a gay teacher because of a religious objection to his sexual orientation. In its statement, the ACLU called this exemption a “blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people,” and said that as it is currently written, "ENDA should not move forward in Congress.”

Why now? When the Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby last week, it upheld the corporation’s religious objection to providing legal, safe contraception like IUDs and the morning-after pill as part of its company health insurance. Inspired by this ruling, people opposed to advances in LGBT rights are hoping to extend the religious exemptions in ENDA to other contexts, according to Ian Thompson, an ACLU legislative representative working on issues that impact the LGBT community

For example, last week religious leaders close to the Obama administration sent a letter to the White House requesting a religious exemption to an executive order the president is expected to issue that would ban federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people.

"We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need," said the letter, which was obtained by The Atlantic. Two members of Catholics for Obama and three former members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships signed the document.

"We want ENDA to reflect the reality that religious expression is not a license to discriminate against LGBT people," Thompson said over the phone. "You're setting the foundation on which all nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people will be built at the federal level. That foundation cannot be built on this gaping loophole that is the religious exemption." 

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Original article from TakePart