Out & Equal Workplace Advocates joins the cascade of LGBT rights organizations - including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union and Pride at Work - in withdrawing our support of the Employment Non-Discrimination ACT (ENDA) as it is currently written.
The religious exemption is too broad, going far beyond the reasonable exemption that exists in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII already provides an ideal model for how to address religious needs in workplaces centered on religion.
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates know ENDA is needed to protect the millions of LGBT employees who have no workplace protections in 29 states (33 if transgender), but an ENDA that leaves so many people open to discrimination defeats the point. Out & Equal will only support an ENDA that provides the same religious exemption in Title VII that has worked well the past 50 years. LGBT employees deserve no less protection than what is already covered by sex and race.
"Among the hundreds of corporations we work with that stand with us for workplace equality, none use religious exemptions to decide who gets benefits," said Out & Equal spokesperson Thom Lynch. "Most companies today understand that equality is good for business and we find it hopeful that corporations are becoming the new LGBT rights advocates. We saw it in Georgia and Arizona earlier this year when corporations blocked passage of anti-gay accommodation laws in the name of religious freedom. We are hopeful the same corporations will call for a stronger ENDA."
The Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby ruling raises the stakes. What was initially described as a narrow ruling for family-run businesses in the matter of health care is quickly morphing into a license to discriminate against LGBT employees. Religious leaders immediately began lobbying President Obama to impose a broad religious exemption in his promised executive order protecting the LGBT employees of federal contractors.
It is important, now more than ever, that a strong federal law protect all LGBT employees. The current ENDA falls far too short.
Media contact: Thom Lynch, email@example.com or 415-516-9878.