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House Democrats Introduce Resolution Against LGBT Discrimination

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A group of four House Democrats have introduced a resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people should be protected from discrimination under the law," Indiana's WIBC reports.

“When intolerance occurs anywhere everyone has an obligation to take a stand and Congress doesn’t get a waiver on that,” House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) said during a press call Monday, according to The Hill

Israel is joined by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), André Carson (D-IN) and David Cicilline (D-RI). Cicilline is currently drafting a comprehensive civil rights bill that he says will "cut through a patchwork of 50 state laws to make sure all LGBT Americans can enjoy their basic rights no matter where they live, work or go to school.” 

CarsonAdded Rep. Carson (right) in a statement:

"Year after year, we see attacks on the LGBT community as governments at all levels look to institutionalize discrimination in the name of religious freedom.  Recently, we witnessed my home state of Indiana enact the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, giving businesses the right to refuse service based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“In the wake of the backlash of Indiana’s misguided law, it is clear that the vast majority of Americans oppose this type of discrimination.  It is long past time for Congress to ensure that all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, know that they are valued members of our society."


GOP Led House Panel Kills Last-Ditch Effort to Pass ENDA

Yesterday, a GOP-controlled panel in the U.S. House voted against attaching the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as an amendment to a broader defense authorization bill, the Washington Blade reports:

PolisRep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) introduced the amendment on behalf of Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay and chief sponsor of ENDA, during House Rules Committee consideration of the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill. Polis is a member of the Rules Committee, but was absent when the amendment came up for a vote.

The panel, which is heavily stacked in favor of Republicans, rejected the amendment 7-3 without discussion by a party-line vote. Had the Rules Committee accepted the amendment, it would have made ENDA part of the defense spending measure before it headed to a vote on the full House floor.

Last year, ENDA was approved by the senate in a historic, bipartisan 64-32 vote. 


Unsurprisingly, ENDA Has Little Chance of Passage in 'More Lame Than Usual' Lame Duck Session

An update on the continually-troubled Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) from Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade:

McconnellHopes persisted the measure would move forward when the dust settled after Election Day, perhaps as a floor amendment in the Senate to the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill, but now that Republican gains flipped control of the chamber, even that method of getting ENDA to President Obama seems unlikely to succeed.

Two Senate aides familiar with the defense authorization bill, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Blade that it’s unlikely the Senate will allow any floor amendments to the legislation — let alone pro-LGBT legislation that would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI): "I think it’s going to be hard. For most of the legislation, they’re going to wait until January when they have a Republican House and a Republican Senate. So, I think the lame duck session could be more lame than usual perhaps because of that, and I would be really surprised if much of substance especially around LGBT issues moves.”


Majority of Adults Say Employers Shouldn't Discriminate Against LGBT Workers on Religious Grounds

According to Harris Interactive, a Nielsen-owned rolling research firm, the bulk of American adults feel as if LGBT workers should not be discriminated against by their employers on religious grounds. The poll, a joint effort between Harris and Out & Equal, found that 55% of respondents were opposed to any employer being able to claim religious exemption were the Employee Non-Discrimination Act to be made into law.

Selisse Berry"This year's survey reinforces what we are seeing in companies, government agencies and businesses around the country - even around the world-- that more and more business leaders are supporting workplace equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees," said Out & Equal CEO Selisse Berry. "While this is good news we still have work to do to protect employees who can still be fired in 29 U.S. states for being LGBT and in 32 if one is transgender.”

Over two-thirds of participants in the poll said that they believed that protection against workplace discrimination should include both gender identity as well as sexual orientation. While a majority of those polled were in support for blanket protections for LGBT people, 33% reported feeling that churches and houses or worship were within their rights to claim an exemption. Similarly, 30% said that they thought privately held businesses should be able to claim exemptions.


CNN Looks at America's Closeted Workforce and the Need for Nationwide ENDA - VIDEO

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A sobering reminder that in 29 states, it's still legal for private companies to discriminate against LGBT people. 

Included in the segment are interviews with Todd Sears, the founder of Out Leadership; Christie Smith, an openly gay high ranking executive at a consultant firm; and a closeted man who chose to not give his name or show his face. 

According to a recent Human Rights Campaign study, 53% of LGBT workers in America are closeted at work. 

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "CNN Looks at America's Closeted Workforce and the Need for Nationwide ENDA - VIDEO" »


With Gay Marriage Pushing Forward, Religious Conservatives Turn Attention to 'Religious Exemption' Bills

B3bpkfhtj9z3errtvn8uWith the battle against gay marriage losing ground throughout the country, some religious conservatives are shifting their attention to "religious exemption" laws.

The post-Hobby Lobby ENDA is wide open to laws like Mississippi's, or Arizona's (ultimately vetoed) bill, which allow for the denial of service to people, if it's based on religion (so, based on sexual orientation).

The AP reports

Sweeping carve-outs for faith-affiliated adoption agencies or individual wedding vendors will be an uphill battle. Public attitudes against exceptions have hardened, and efforts by faith groups in states where courts, not lawmakers, recognized same-sex unions have had little success.

Unfortunately, this may hold less true in some places. The AP article continues with a quote from Robin Fretwell Wilson, a legal specialist from the University of Illinois. She says:

Some of the states are so red — think South Carolina — that the legislature can likely lock down all kinds of religious liberty protections, even those we have not yet seen adopted anywhere, like protection for the small mom-and-pop wedding professionals, simply because they have the votes of like-minded colleagues.

Another example of Hobby Lobby-related problems presented by the article is that of Utah Republican State Representative Jacob Anderegg (pictured). The senator plans to come back to a bill he had held off on introducing for the last two years, while the fight on gay marriage was in full swing. Senator Anderegg's bill would allow clergy and justices of the peace to refuse particpation in same-sex weddings.

Said Anderegg: The bill reasserts and re-establishes fundamental principles: I have a religious objection. You can’t force me or compel me to do it." 


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