ACLU, LGBT Rights Groups Drop ENDA Support Over Religious Exemption

The American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal,  the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center this afternoon announced their withdrawal of support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), because of the inclusion of a religious exemption in the current version of the bill.

In a joint statement, the groups said that in light of “the types of workplace discrimination we see increasingly against LGBT people, together with the calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds that followed immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has become clear that the inclusion of this provision is no longer tenable,” because it would prevent the law from having its intended impact: barring discrimination against LGBT people.

The statement continues:

ENDA’s discriminatory provision, unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, could provide religiously affiliated organizations – including hospitals, nursing homes and universities – a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people. The provision essentially says that anti-LGBT discrimination is different – more acceptable and legitimate – than discrimination against individuals based on their race or sex. If ENDA were to pass and be signed into law with this provision, the most important federal law for the LGBT community in American history would leave too many jobs, and too many LGBT workers, without protection.

The statement warns that such a religious exemption in a federal anti-discrimination law could embolden states to enact religious exemptions permitting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Indeed Hobby Lobby has already prompted anti-LGBT advocates in Kansas to revive efforts to pass a “religious freedom” law that would permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.