RELEASE: LGBT Workplace Bill Heads Toward Senate Vote With Problematic Exemptions

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013   Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 29 October 2013

Media Contact: Heather Cronk, heather@getequal.org, 202-491-7240

LGBT Workplace Bill Heads to Senate for Vote, Despite Problematic Religious Exemptions

National LGBT Social Justice Organization Calls on Senate Progressives to Oppose Exemptions

WASHINGTON, DC — After the announcement yesterday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) up for a floor vote before Thanksgiving, GetEQUAL — a national grassroots social justice organization working for the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans — issued the following statement:

“While we are glad that ENDA will receive a vote in the Senate for the first time in almost 20 years, we are dismayed that the bill continues to excuse religious bigotry as acceptable under the law. Broad religious exemptions in the bill actually make it possible that institutions such as schools, hospitals, and universities can continue discriminating against LGBT employees and prospective employees.

We’ve seen this insistence on religious exemptions and conscience clauses play out before around access to birth control, and believe that the bill as written will establish a precedent that religious bigotry will continue to trump LGBT equality — a dangerous, unnecessary, and un-American precedent.

We’re calling on progressive champions in the Senate — including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Sherrod Brown — to speak out against these exemptions, establishing a clear record that these exemptions are not necessary and are not acceptable in 2013.”

GetEQUAL is petitioning Sens. Warren, Franken, Gillibrand, and Brown to stand up against ENDA’s broad religious exemptions on the floor of the Senate, and have collected over 5,600 petition signatures supporting that call: http://hq-org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6535/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1267205.
Just a few weeks ago, news broke that a teacher at a Catholic school in Arkansas had been fired minutes after traveling to New Mexico to marry her same-sex partner: http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/10/22/2814921/catholic-school-fires-teacher-marrying/. Unfortunately, ENDA as it is currently written would likely not protect teachers at religiously-affiliated schools from LGBT workplace discrimination — even if they are in positions that are in no way related to the teaching of religion.
These kinds of exemptions also establish a legal precedent for religious discrimination that impacts more than just LGBT equality — it could also impact pending court cases addressing the rights of employees to have access to birth control and other reproductive health services. Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL, recently published an op-ed that tackles why it is important to resist these kinds of religious exemptions: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-cronk/we-deserve-more-than-aste_1_b_4101183.html.
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GetEQUAL is a national grassroots social justice organization whose mission is to empower the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and allies to take bold action to demand full legal and social equality, and to hold accountable those who stand in the way. For more information, go to www.getequal.org. You can also follow GetEQUAL on Facebook at www.facebook.com/getequal or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/getequal.

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