Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, an organization specifically dedicated to creating safe and equitable workplaces for LGBT people, is the latest pro-equality group to drop its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act over its troubling and unprecedented religious exemption.
The group announced its decision late yesterday via press release:
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 and ENDA that leaves so many people open to discrimination defeats the point. Out & Equal will only support and 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 healthcare 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.
Out & Equal is the sixth major national LGBT group to drop its support for ENDA in the past 24 hours. The others are the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the ACLU, GLAD, Lambda Legal, and Pride at Work. GetEQUAL, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Transgender Law Center had already withdrawn their support for the measure.
The Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality are, at least for now, still standing by ENDA in its current form, despite expressing concerns about its religious exemption.
UPDATE: HRC President Chad Griffin explains his group's position in an op-ed for BuzzFeed titled "Why HRC Supports a Comprehensive Civil Rights Bill." An excerpt is after the break.