Chad Griffin Grilled on Whether HRC Would Support LGBT Civil Rights Bill With Broader Religious Exemption

Some additional follow-up from Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade regarding Senator Jeff Merkley's (D-OR) announcement Wednesday that he'll spearhead a comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill in the next session of Congress.

Johnson reports: Merkley

In response to a question from the Washington Blade during the question-and-answer portion of the event, Merkley said he expects discussions among stakeholders to take place on the religious exemption for the legislation, but he wants language that should track "identically the provisions that we currently have for race."

Given his support for legislation that would have a religious exemption mirroring existing civil rights law, one idea, as opposed to a standalone bill for comprehensive protections, is amending the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Merkley wouldn't rule out the possibility of that path when asked about it by the Blade.

"That certainly is a possible strategy," Merkley said. "And because I want to bring forward a coalition and work in partnership with the stakeholders, I won't now say that there is only one path to get there, but that is certainly one of the strong candidates."

C_griffinJohnson then took his questions to HRC President Chad Griffin:

LGBT advocates who took part in a panel discussion after Merkley's remarks, including Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, expressed a strong preference for a comprehensive bill with a narrow religious exemption.

Griffin said there's "universal agreement" from LGBT groups on what the religious exemption should look like, but LGBT advocates have to make a better case for that language on Capitol Hill by saying LGBT people want the same exemption that exists for other groups under existing law.

"It already exists in law," Griffin said. "There's already a religious exemption, and that's what we've got to do a better job of talking about."

Following the event, the Blade asked Griffin to clarify whether those words mean HRC would decline to support a non-discrimination measure in the upcoming Congress with a broader religious exemption. Griffin replied that he addressed this issue during the event, reiterating that HRC will "support a religious exemption that is the same religious exemption that already exists under law, and I think all of us, all of us — whether advocates, journalists or otherwise — can better make the point that there already is a model religious exemption."

Asked again by the Blade whether that means HRC won't support a bill with a broader religious exemption, Griffin insisted he answered that question directly, adding he doesn't think LGBT allies on Capitol Hill would support a bill with a greater religious carve-out than what's already enshrined under existing civil rights law.


  1. Chrislamishdu says

    The religious exemption should say the government will not force businesses to engage in gay sex or get gay married.

    We need to stop letting the religious right control the religious exemption message. What one chooses to do to themselves based on their religious beliefs is different than discriminating others and proclaiming it is an infringement on their religious beliefs.

  2. JasonMacB says

    The Westboro Baptist Church people have done more to advance gay rights than the HRC. Why people continue to give these self-important social climbers money I do not understand.

  3. K in VA says

    Frankly, this is all very silly speculation.

    Any non-discrimination bill that could actually get passed by Republicans would include massive exceptions for faith-based haters. The Republicans would then bring that up for a vote, and taunt Democrats into voting for a bill that Republicans called “gay rights,” so that inattentive LGBT voters would vote for Republicans and condemn Democrats for voting against them.

  4. woodroad34 says

    Fine if they don’t want to have us in the “churches”; but it shouldn’t exclude them from housing, employment, adoption or any other public accommodations laws. “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” If only I could remember who said that.

  5. Pious says

    HRC is still living in a dream world. First of all, the gender identity/unisex bathrooms section is a non-starter politically, just as it was in 2008, when it effectively killed the sure passage of ENDA. If that all or nothing strategy had been applied to DADT, gays would still be verboten in the military to this day. Also, with the repuglicans in charge, this does not have even the slightest chance of passage. We will be quite lucky if they do not try to pass some sort of “Religious Freedom” national right to discriminate bill.

  6. Jon says

    As long as this bill, or any bill, contains “gender identity and expression” provisions, it will never pass. And it shouldn’t pass. Congress has vetted the scope and impact of these terms. We don’t even have a universally accepted definition of “transgender.” Would a “neutrois” transgender be able to haul an employer into federal court because the company didn’t want to pay for castration surgery? “Transgender” is an asylum filled with disturbed, mostly heterosexual people, who should never be empowered to inflict harm on employers. However, amid that sea of mental illness can be found a few mentally healthy people, such as the intersexed, who could be protected from discrimination with little controversy. Congress would need to sort through all of this before passing anything. Which is why gender identity needs to come out of this bill.

  7. Randy says

    The fact that there’s a religious supremacy exemption for other things like race is irrelevant.

    Religion has been our primary, if not sole, oppressor for millennia.

    For this reason in particular, there must be no religious exemption.

    But more generally, it’s time for religious supremacy to end. Religion must grow up, and be treated like any other idea.