Queer Nation: Why is HRC Blasting Vatican While Pushing for ENDA with Terrible Religious Exemption?

Earlier this week we reported that the Human Rights Campaign had sent a letter to the Vatican requesting an audience with the Pope on behalf of nine teachers who have lost their jobs at Catholic schools for being LGBT or supporting an LGBT person.

Pope_griffinThe activist group Queer Nation sent out a press release yesterday calling HRC out for hypocrisy on the issue of religious discrimination because it is pushing for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which contains a terrible religious exemption.

Here's the full release from Queer Nation:

At the same time it is criticizing Roman Catholic schools for their anti-LGBT discrimination, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is lobbying in Congress for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that has a religious exemption that would allow that discrimination under federal law.

"All discrimination is immoral and HRC is right to object to what these schools are doing," said Ken Kidd, a member of Queer Nation. "So why is HRC spending millions in Congress to promote ENDA when that legislation has a religious exemption that will let Roman Catholic schools and other religiously-affiliated institutions fire LGBT people and perhaps even pro-LGBT people?"

In a May 27 press release announcing it had delivered a letter to the Vatican on behalf of nine Roman Catholic school teachers who were fired from their jobs for being LGBT or pro-LGBT, HRC called such discrimination "draconian laws" that are "designed to force LGBT people back into the closet and silence straight allies."

HRC noted that the firings were part of "a frightening trend" at Roman Catholic schools across America of including teacher contract clauses that bar LGBT people and pro-LGBT activities by teachers at these schools. In April, HRC collected over 30,000 signatures in a petition asking the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to remove the clause from its teacher contract, the press release noted.

"HRC can't have it both ways," Kidd said. "It can't criticize Roman Catholic schools for discriminating against LGBT Americans and then seek to make that discrimination legal under federal law. ENDA is a lousy bill and it should be scrapped. What the LGBT community needs is comprehensive federal civil rights legislation."

Queer Nation has been campaigning for a comprehensive federal civil rights law that bans discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and federally-funded programs. The direct action group is using the hashtags #deadenda and #endaisnotequal.

ENDA's religious exemption is expansive and goes beyond the more limited exemption in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Five leading LGBT legal groups are not supporting the current version of ENDA, which only bans employment discrimination, because of its religious exemption. Lorri Jean, the head of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, recently said that the exemption must be removed.

Matt Foreman, the former head of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Cathy Marino-Thomas, the former board chair of Marriage Equality USA, have opposed ENDA and called for comprehensive federal civil rights legislation.


  1. bkmn says

    The leadership of HRC is still spending too much time in DC. They need to get their butts outside the beltway and get back in touch with working LGBT’s.

    While it may have improved from the days they were little more than DC circuit party boys, they need to do more to prove that HRC is worthy of donating our money.

  2. Richard Harney says

    HRC gets passed what they can get passed. Don’t start acting like the GOP and try to get everything all at once or you’ll end up with nothing.

  3. Bill says

    Why is anyone surprised?

    The HRC cares only about raising money. The organization is expert at direct mail, street teams and lavish fund raisers to raise obscene amounts of money… to be spent raising more money and schmoozing with celebrities.

    History has been made in marriage equality and equal rights, NOT because of efforts of the HRC, but because of the brave and tireless efforts of grassroots organizations across America. History was made because tireless volunteers went out and WORKED… unlike the HRC which sits in Washington, sending pontificating e-mails and planning the next black-tie cocktail party.

    When history judges who did what in the fight for equal rights, HRC will not merit even a footnote.

    Just my opinion.

  4. Malcolm says

    A religious school should be able to fire and hire whomever it wants, in accordance with their sacred religious dogma and teachings. The First Amendment should protect the state from excessive interference and entanglement in religious organizations, schools, and entities.

  5. Malcolm says

    Should read: “The First Amendment should forbid the state from excessive interference and entanglement in religious organizations, schools, and entities.”

  6. Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance says

    HRC is an organization in search of relevance. Fundraising seems to be the only thing that it can accomplish. Success in the battle for marriage equality has come due to the efforts of Lambda Legal and other organizations that do not hesitate to get into the trenches and fight. HRC is too busy pouring drinks and baking canapés.

    HRC lost my support approximately 10 years ago when it forfeited $750K in earnest money by walking away from its contract to build a headquarters and buying an existing building instead. That is $750K of money donated by people, like me, who were told that HRC was working for our rights in Washington, DC. I have asked several times, but HRC has yet to explain to me how the needless loss of that $750K benefited the GLBT community.

  7. Ken says

    Most people don’t know what ENDA does and doesn’t do. Most people think that the “E” in ENDA stands for equality. Some think that ENDA offers protections it does not even cover. ENDA does not offer any protections in housing. ENDA does not offer any protections in public accommodations. ENDA does not offer any protections in education, or Federal programs. The religious exemptions it signs into Federal Law are worse than what we have now, and not dissimilar to what HRC fund raised against in Arizona just a few short months ago. The landscape on LGBT rights has changed dramatically since the last time HRC was forced by our community to lobby for trans inclusion in ENDA–think about our victories in marriage, in the acceptance of the mainstream with the addition of Michael Sam and Jason Collins into our pro sports ranks, and with the number of out politicians and people in the media. #ENDAisNOTequal and we deserve better and can get more. ENDA is ‘because we said so’ and ‘that’s the way it’s always been.’ Those are two phrases that Harvey Milk hated.

  8. jason MacBride says

    If HRC leaders worked as hard at getting legislation passed as they do at getting publicity and invitations to cocktail parties they might accomplish something worthwhile. As it is, they are pimples on the ass of progress.

  9. says

    We need to be very engaged in ENDA. It’s important. Of course, if it only dealt with trans rights, everyone in the community leaders would support it. Such an obvious bias

  10. anon says

    The religious exemptions in the bill are mostly just in accordance with federal court rulings that have granted first amendment rights to hire and fire based on religious precepts.

  11. TonyJazz says

    HRC is our most effective (and very successful) lobbyist group in DC.

    It’s just too easy to take potshots at them. Yes, they rely on fundraising, but which organization doesn’t?

    Step back and realize who your friends are…. (and Queer Nation still exists? how about ACT UP? and what about the Gay Liberation Front?)

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