Religious Exemptions in ENDA Endorsed by Some Activist Groups, Questioned by Others

Many are still concerned about the religious exemption in the current language of ENDA, reports Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade:

ReidThat language would provide leeway for religious institutions, like churches or religious schools, to discriminate against LGBT workers in non-ministerial positions even if ENDA were to become law. It’s broader than similar exemptions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for categories of race, gender, religion and national origin…

…Faiz Shakir, a Reid spokesperson…said the Democratic leader understands the concerns, but wants to get the bill passed first, then go back and address the exemptions.

“Sen. Reid’s first priority is to pass the strongest possible legislation which can garner 60 votes,” Shakir said. “He believes the current legislation meets that test.”

Activists from the ACLU and GetEQUAL are concerned about the amendment, Johnson reports, but realistically do not see the language being changed on the Senate floor and are instead petitioning individual lawmakers to speak out and raise awareness about the language:

GetEQUAL has petitioned four senators with a reputation for being champions of progressive values — Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) — to speak out against the religious exemption. As of Sunday, the petition has just under 6,000 signatures.
It remains to be seen whether any senator will speak out in favor of limiting the religious exemption when ENDA comes to the Senate floor this week.

The Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Work, and the Center for American Progress have all endorsed the exemption, according to the Blade.

The Senate is expected to take a cloture vote on ENDA later today.


  1. Keith says

    I agree with this strategy. It’s easier to have something in place to start, and then chip away at the exemptions later when there is more political capital available to spend. Regardless, this measure will never pass the current House membership, so am uncertain as to what all the concerns being expressed matter since it’s highly unlikely to become a law in the United States under the current environment under House leadership. At least it’s progress, and to have 60 Senators in favor of anything these days is a very strong statement, and on this particular topic for which I am very grateful.

  2. yuninv says

    Where is my exception for treating Christians like the fucktard assholes they are? I’m not able to deny them service or employment based on their religious beliefs.

  3. MiddleoftheRoader says

    Are we going to let the ‘perfect’ be the enemy of the ‘very good’. Let’s get this bill moving! Yes, it would be ‘perfect ‘, or closer to ‘perfect’, it it had a more narrow religious exemption; but the Senate would probably not pass a bill that requires Catholic (or other religious) elementary schools run by the Catholic church with a Catholic curriculum and a Catholic priest/nun as principal not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. If you want to wait for a bill that includes that restriction, we may have to wait another 10 or 15 years (or more). Let’s get this moving.

  4. oncemorewithfeeling says

    If I can’t discriminate against them — and I would want to, but wouldn’t anyway because discrimination is wrong — then they can’t discriminate against me.

    A five year-old can understand this.

    That’s where we are: there are adults running this country who aren’t as smart as an average pre-schooler.

  5. QJ201 says

    Pass the law first.
    The government can always attach strings to federal funding and grants, e.g., anyone being paid or receiving services paid for with federal money cannot be discriminated against due to gender ID or sexual orientation. That impacts a lot of religious organizations.

  6. Randy says

    Keith (and others): “I agree with this strategy. It’s easier to have something in place to start, and then chip away at the exemptions later… ”

    Surely you realize this is exactly the other side’s thinking.

    They are seeking an expansion of religious dominance in North America.

    They want to normalize the idea that there is a religious exception to the laws generally. We cannot allow this, and we certainly shouldn’t participate.

  7. Keith says


    No, I don’t think this is what the “other side” is thinking, necessarily. Religion has always sought expansion, but you need to realize that the currently proposed ENDA law does not exempt public accommodation entities from the right to discriminate.

    Right now, there is nothing in place to protect the LGBTQ community from being fired for no other reason than orientation or self-identity in the majority of states, even by non-religious entities. ENDA is a solid, though imperfect, beginning. Let the ACLU then file a lawsuit afterwards, after finding the right plaintiffs, to bring a lawsuit to the US Supreme Court that would overturn the overly broad exemption and just limit it to religious organizations entitled to self-determined membership and belief systems who are not in the realm of public accommodation.

  8. FFS says

    Who cares? Are we really making defending some idiot’s right to work for child-molesters who promote the ludicrous notion that being gay will damn said idiot’s eternal soul to burn in in hell forever the sticking point?

    In more “Who cares?” new, ENDA is DOA in the House, so this is all a waste of time/breath/energy/bandwidth.

  9. Jason B says

    I am fine with exemptions that allows Religious organizations to fire employees for committing sins according to their doctrine. However, they must enforce their opposition to sinners equally since all sins are equal. If they fire gay people they must fire anyone having sex out of wedlock, committing adultery or any other sin there sect publicly decries. I wonder how often they will exercise this right if they are forced to eliminate all active sinners.

  10. EdA says

    Even if this bill goes nowhere in the House of Misrepresentatives (and, frankly, I don’t imagine that it will go anywhere), it’s still more inclusive than previous efforts and it’s still an important next step in chipping away at the boulder of bigotry in the workplace.

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