In light of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, several LGBT rights groups have withdrawn their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) citing increased concerns about the religious exemption included in the bill.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund on Tuesday was the first LGBT rights organization to withdraw its support ENDA on the grounds that the religious exemption, like the ACA exemption and accommodation for contraceptive coverage, might “be used as a similar license to discriminate across the country.” The American Civil Liberties Union, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center subsequently withdrew their support. In a joint statement, the groups noted, “The Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby has made it all the more important that we not accept this inappropriate provision.”
ENDA prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill, however, contains an exemption for religious organizations. According to the joint statement, “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 Senate voted 64-32 to pass ENDA in November. It is unlikely to be taken up in the House. President Obama has announced that he will sign an Executive Order prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for federal contractors, but some religious groups have insisted that the President add a “robust religious exemption” for groups with religious objections to homosexuality.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are expected to introduce the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act today to reverse the Hobby Lobby decision and ensure that for-profit corporations could not use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to avoid complying with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptive coverage benefit. The bill would maintain the religious exemption and accommodation. Several religiously affiliated non-profits have challenged the ACA, despite the accommodation, as a violation of their religious freedom.
Media Resources: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 7/8/14; American Civil Liberties Union 7/8/14; New York Times 7/8/14; Feminist Newswire 6/17/14, 11/8/13; National Women’s Law Center