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.