Republicans Seek to Amend, Expand Exemption in ENDA, Protecting Religious-Affiliated Entities

An amendment to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act's religious exemption authored by Sen. Rob Portman and cosponsored by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Dean Heller, Orrin Hatch, and John McCain seeks to expand that exemption so that it protects religious-affiliated entities from being penalized by governments, Buzzfeed reports.

PortmanThe amendment reads:

“A religious employer’s exemption under this Act shall not result in any action by a Federal government agency, or any state or local government agency that receives Federal funding or financial assistance, to penalize or withhold licenses, permits, certifications, accreditation, contracts, grants, guarantees, tax-exempt status, or any benefits or exemptions from that employer, or to prohibit the employer’s participation in programs or activities sponsored by that Federal, state, or local government agency. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to invalidate any other federal, state, or local law or regulation that otherwise applies to an employer exempt under this section.”

According to Buzzfeed, LGBT advocates from Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom to Work will not actively seek to oppose the amendment, and all believe it is an unnecessary provision.

Another sought after amendment, coming from Pat Toomey, would expand the exemption's language, and all LGBT groups are opposed to it. A draft of that amendment was also published by Buzzfeed:

“(b) In addition, (i) an employer shall qualify for this exemption if it is (in whole or in part) managed by a particular religious corporation, association, or society; if it is officially affiliated with a particular religion or religious corporation, association, or society; or if the institution’s curriculum is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion; and (ii) This exemption shall apply regardless of whether the employer, or the employment position at issue, engages in secular activities as well as religious activities.”

The full Senate is expected to take up the bill as soon as today.

Some activists had already expressed concerns about the base religious exemptions in the bill. The NYT also wrote in an op-ed that it found them "terribly broad."