ACLU Withdraws Support for Gay Job Rights Bill, Cites Hobby Lobby Ruling

July 10, 2014 - 9:15 AM

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(CNSNews.com) - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and four gay rights groups withdrew their previous support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) on Tuesday, citing the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling.

The ACLU, Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and theTransgender Law Center declared in a statement that in light of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, ENDA's exemption for faith-based organizations represents “a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination against LGBT people.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby has made it all the more important that we not accept this inappropriate provision,” the statement continued.

“Because opponents of LGBT equality are already misreading that decision as having broadly endorsed rights to discriminate against others, we cannot accept a bill that sanctions discrimination and declares that discrimination against LGBT people is more acceptable than other kinds of discrimination.”

ACLU and its fellow signatories also claimed that religious groups are already protected under the law.

“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,” they noted.

ENDA gained broad support from LGBT advocates last November when it passed the Senate on a 64-32 vote, with several Republicans, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), supporting it specifically because of the religious exemption.

However, after the bill stalled in the House, Democratic members of Congress then pushed President Barack Obama to take immediate action. Obama announced in June that he would sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But faith leaders are divided over whether the upcoming executive order should also include a religious exemption.

A July 1 letter signed by religious freedom advocates -  including Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, who delivered the invocation at Obama's 2009 inauguration, and Michael Wear, who was the national faith vote director of Obama’s 2012 campaign - stated that “without a robust religious exemption, like the provisions in the Senate-passed ENDA, this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom.”

However, other religious leaders urged Obama not to include a religious exemption in the executive order. "An exception would set a terrible precedent by denying true equality for LGBT people, while simultaneously opening a Pandora’s Box inviting other forms of discrimination," they said.

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