Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) Introduced in Congress

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was reintroduced today in the House and Senate.

MerkleyUnfortunately, its reintroduction was marred by objections over religous exemption language in the bill. The ACLU, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Transgender Law Center released a joint statement Thursday morning applauding the reintroduction but expressing "very grave concerns" about the exemption language:

Despite the remarkable progress – cultural, political, and legal – that LGBT people have made in recent years, there are currently 34 states that lack workplace non-discrimination laws that are fully inclusive of LGBT people. This patchwork of protection continues to leave LGBT people vulnerable to workplace discrimination. We hear the stories every day from our clients and the tens of thousands of LGBT people who contact LGBT legal organizations like ours every year. In a country that values fairness and equal treatment under the law, we believe the current situation is unacceptable.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of Sens. Merkley (pictured, D-Ore.) and Kirk (R-Ill.) and Reps. Polis (D-Colo.) and Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in making a number of significant improvements to ENDA. These include removing language that would have reaffirmed the discriminatory and unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.

While we applaud the progress that has been made, we stand united in expressing very grave concerns with the religious exemption in ENDA. It could provide religiously affiliated organizations – far beyond houses of worship – with a blank check to engage in employment discrimination against LGBT people. Some courts have said that even hospitals and universities may be able to claim the exemption; thus, it is possible that a religiously affiliated hospital could fire a transgender doctor or a religiously affiliated university could terminate a gay groundskeeper. It gives a stamp of legitimacy to LGBT discrimination that our civil rights laws have never given to discrimination based on an individual’s race, sex, national origin, age, or disability. This sweeping, unprecedented exemption undermines the core goal of ENDA by leaving too many jobs, and LGBT workers, outside the scope of its protections.

National Center for Transgender Equality's Mara Keisling wrote an F.A.Q. this morning on the bill and what it includes and does not include.

Buzzfeed has more on the religious exemption:

Lambda Legal attorney Greg Nevins, who has litigated some of the group's employment discrimination cases in the past, talked with BuzzFeed about the religious exemption.

"In Title VII, there's an exemption for certain religious-affiliated entities that says that they can basically engage in religious discrimination but they cannot engage in race, color, sex, or national origin discrimination. The words [religious-affiliated entities] have been sometimes interpreted very broadly," Nevins explained, noting, "For instance, a Presbyterian hospital might in some jurisdictions be considered to qualify, which is decidedly different than saying a church or a convent can do these things."

The religious exemption in ENDA "would say that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are not actionable against those entities as defined in Title VII," he added.

"It would be setting up a two-tiered system saying that race, color, sex, and national origin discrimination cannot be engaged in by one of these entities, but sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination can," Nevins said.


  1. Anthony says

    This is going nowhere with GOP in control of the House. This should have been passed with DADT repeal when Democrats controlled both houses. Big mistake.

  2. Emmile says

    This was a gay civil rights bill. It could have passed 4 years ago. The only reason it hasn’t and the only reason it won’t pass for many years to come is because our gay leaders have decided to buy into the fraud that there is such thing as “LGBT” people and that gay rights needs to take a back seat to the rights of heterosexual crossdressers.

  3. says

    Broad religious exemptions, but only when it comes to LGBT rights. Unacceptable.

    Cause the T is all about “heterosexual crossdressers” — no matter how many times some people (pointlessly) change their screen names, their moronic comments remain the same.

  4. Kathryn says

    I hope this bill fails in its present form – there should be NO EXEMPTION for any religious organisation to discriminate on any ground such as ethnicity race sex sexual orientation or gender identity or religious affiliation if they are providing a service to the public whether that be a soup kitchen or a hospital – the only exception ever should be within a church synagogue mosque temple or other similar religious building.
    It has never been a principle of law that you can do bad things to people and escape the consequence by claiming “god” told you to do it.
    Look at the Rhode Island civil Union legislation (soon to be no more) – people notice when the religious take the piss –
    THIS version of ENDA should not pass!

  5. says

    I agree that the bill in present form leaves it wide open for religious organizations (and perhaps universities, etc.) to continue to discriminate. Why is it so hard for the USA to pass legislation that grants equal rights and protections to all??

  6. simon says

    Any law which mentions religion seems to be in violation of the Second Amendment:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
    It is supposed to be about discrimination and not religion.

  7. J. Leo says

    If the religious organizations wish to discriminate against gay people because they consider it a sin why are they not firing every person who has committed adultery, stolen, lied, coveted their neighbor’s wife or husband,etc. In short, since we are all sinners, who the hell is able to work in these organizations?

  8. Francis #1 says

    Religious exemption? So basically a watered down bill from the jump.

    ENDA and Inclusive Immigration won’t be passing anytime soon, sadly. If it doesn’t get done this year it definitely won’t during an election year.

    For as much progress we have made, we’re still not truly recognized as 100% equal, 100% normal in this country. Not by a longshot. Frustration. But our fight continues.

  9. rick scatorum says

    It is more likely to pass in the future with the exemption, unfortunately. Religion has way too much power in this country, unlike Canada or Spain, or even France

  10. David Hearne says

    What is it that you think this bill would do?

    Large private employers and most public employers already have non-discrimination policies. Non-discrimination policies don’t apply to employers of fewer than 15 people. So what is it that you expect from this?

  11. David Hearne says

    Simon – Allowing a religious exemption is not a violation of the First Amendment. The government understands that there are limits to its reach and that the interests of such a bill cannot unduly trample the rights of others.

    Religious institutions are expressive by their nature. They have a POV which is protected in the Constitution. You cannot force a Baptist Church to hire a gay minister and you can’t force a Metropolitan Community Church to hire a raving gay-hater.

    The court ruled that the NYC St Patrick’s Parade could exclude gay groups because the parade is expression. By the same token, PRIDE doesn’t have to let the Nation Of Islam have a float in our parade.

    Give these things more thought.

  12. ***** says

    @Simon, if you are going to complain about the application of constitutional amendments, please try to get the number of the amendment correct.
    The Second amendment has nothing to do with religion. The first amendment however…….
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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