In the fallout of the Hobby Lobby decision, seven major LGBT organizations withdrew their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA is not new to much-needed criticism, but the religious exemption established by the SCOTUS ruling that allows companies to deny birth control coverage was the straw that broke the camels back for these groups.
The worry over these exemptions is bigger than ENDA, which isn’t likely to ever pass anyway. As Jim Burroway explains, these organizations see danger in continuing to support ENDA prior to…
“a forthcoming executive order from President Obama that would extend anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity expression to federal contractors. The concern here is that the Obama administration may lift the language of the religious exemption clause from ENDA and graft it into his executive order, and thereby effectively eviscerate the order’s effectiveness for large numbers of LGBT people.”
One of the great things about this move is that it clearly highlights the intersections of reproductive and LGBTQ issues. A connection that is, in my opinion, too often overlooked. The bottom line is that people’s personal religious beliefs should be respected but not become the basis for discrimination based on gender/sexual orientation or to dictate what health care people have access to. This is about bodily autonomy and the freedom to exist with all of your liberties and access to resources in tact. A couple of LGBT groups–including HRC, an organization that is definitely acquainted with the side-eye–continue to support ENDA, insisting that “it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”
But the fact is that these are protections that can all be sidestepped with a simple “It’s against my religion.” And that is no protection at all. The organizations that withdrew their support, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Transgender Law Center, and the AFL-CIO’s Pride at Work, agree. In a joint statement they clarify their request:
“Do not give religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT people when they have no such right to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information,” the group say in a joint statement just released. “Religiously affiliated organizations are allowed to make hiring decisions based on their religion, but nothing in federal law authorizes discrimination by those organizations based on any other protected characteristic, and the rule should be the same for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Religious organizations are free to choose their ministers or faith leaders, and adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression will not change that.”
Queer Nation’s Twitter campaign #ENDAisNOTequal offers some great commentary on all of the reasons ENDA won’t work for LGBT communities. As Jos recently wrote at the Guardian:
“National LGBT leaders need to agree that we deserve better than ENDA.This weakened legislation doesn’t address discrimination in housing, public accommodations, education or federal programs. And it would only extend to us the employment protections that the majority of Americans think LGBT people already have – that’s how far Congress is behind the mainstream. It’s finally time to push for the broad protections that we actually need.”
ENDA simply isn’t it.
Sesali is a columnist for Feministing.com.