Main | Wednesday, November 06, 2013

GOP Senators Attempt To Expand ENDA's Already Too-Broad Religious Exemptions

Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner reports that a group of GOP senators are pushing an amendment to ENDA that would expand the already too-broad religious exemption in the bill. LGBT groups "appear uninterested" in fighting the amendment, says Geidner.
The amendment, which also includes a provision making explicit that the purpose of the ENDA includes respect for religious liberty, is being authored by Sen. Rob Portman and is cosponsored by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Dean Heller, Orrin Hatch, and John McCain. On Monday evening, the Senate’s lead sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jeff Merkley, said he would be backing the amendment. Officials with the Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom to Work all said they believed it was an unnecessary provision, but none said they were actively opposing it — and HRC made its lack of opposition explicit. “HRC believes this language is unnecessary, but does not oppose it. We believe this merely restates the status quo for religious employers,” HRC vice president for communications Fred Sainz told BuzzFeed.
The proposed amendment would bar the government from retaliating against "religious employers" that discriminate against LGBT workers. Here is the text:
“A religious employer’s exemption under this Act shall not result in any action by a Federal government agency, or any state or local government agency that receives Federal funding or financial assistance, to penalize or withhold licenses, permits, certifications, accreditation, contracts, grants, guarantees, tax-exempt status, or any benefits or exemptions from that employer, or to prohibit the employer’s participation in programs or activities sponsored by that Federal, state, or local government agency. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to invalidate any other federal, state, or local law or regulation that otherwise applies to an employer exempt under this section.”
Sen. Pat Toomey has an amendment of his own and this one IS opposed by LGBT groups. The text:
“(b) In addition, (i) an employer shall qualify for this exemption if it is (in whole or in part) managed by a particular religious corporation, association, or society; if it is officially affiliated with a particular religion or religious corporation, association, or society; or if the institution’s curriculum is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion; and (ii) This exemption shall apply regardless of whether the employer, or the employment position at issue, engages in secular activities as well as religious activities.”
ENDA passed its cloture test on Monday and may be heard by the full Senate as early as today.

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