The exemption-riddled Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has just been dealt another body blow, with three more major national organizations -- the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders -- announcing this afternoon that they are dropping their support for the bill.
The ACLU reports, via press release:
The ACLU objects to a provision in the bill that would allow religiously affiliated employers to continue to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
"Federal legislation to protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination is way beyond overdue, but Congress has no place giving religiously affiliated employers a license to discriminate against LGBT workers," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "We can no longer support a bill that treats LGBT discrimination as different and somehow more legitimate than other forms of discrimination."
President Obama has announced his intention to sign an executive order that would ban discrimination against LGBT people employed by federal contractors. The ACLU opposes any inclusion of a discrimination exemption in this executive order.
LGBT groups are dropping the current ENDA like a hot potato: the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center, both of which have already withdrawn their support for ENDA, also signed onto the letter. The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force dropped its support earlier this afternoon.
Organizations that still support the current version of ENDA -- for now, anyway -- include the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and Freedom to Work.
UPDATE: A reader points out that as recently as three months ago, the ACLU was on the steering committee of Americans for Workplace Opportunity, a $2.2 million coalition of LGBT and labor groups lobbying House Republicans to pass ENDA. Politico reports that the group is quite active, employing 30 field organizers in 17 states and retaining the services of eight GOP-affiliated public affairs firms. The ACLU is still listed as a steering committee member on the AWO website, as is the Task Force.
Does today's announcement mean that the ACLU is withdrawing from that coalition? I've asked the question and will let you know if they respond.
UPDATE 2: The ACLU has responded that yes, they will be withdrawing from the Americans for Workplace Opportunity coalition:
Read the ACLU's joint statement announcing the withdrawal, after the jump.