Jeff Merkley Hub




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.


Senator Jeff Merkley Says He'll Lead Efforts to Pass Comprehensive LGBT Civil Rights Bill Next Session

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), said on Wednesday that he'll lead efforts in introducing a comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill in the next session of Congress, MetroWeekly reports:

MerkleyDuring remarks at the Center for American Progress, the Oregon Democrat said he will spearhead efforts to pass federal legislation that would protect LGBT people in nearly every aspect of American life, including employment, housing, public accommodations, housing and credit.

Merkley said that while the Senate’s passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in November of last year by a 64-32 vote after the bill failed by one vote in 1996 was a “tremendous victory,” if discrimination is wrong in employment, it also must be wrong in areas such as housing, public accommodations and financial transactions.

LGBT rights advocates have been pushing for such a bill.

HRC President Chad Griffin spoke about the need for it in a statement in July responding to criticism that the group was standing by an ENDA with a religious exemption. Said Griffin:

"But regardless of whether or not ENDA passes in this session of Congress, it is time for the LGBT movement to throw its weight behind a fully comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill. A bill that, at long last, would bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in all core civil rights categories — including housing, public accommodations, credit, education and, if ENDA fails to pass, in employment. This is a visionary idea that Congresswoman Bella Abzug brought to Congress in 1974. Its time has come."


GOP Senate Candidate From Oregon To Run Pro-Marriage Equality Ad: VIDEO

MonicaWehby

Monica Wehby (above left) is proving to be a rare bird in the GOP senate race. The Oregon candidate, battling against incumbent Jeff Merkley (D), is set to air a television ad touting her pro-gay marriage stance. Not only is her position surprising, but the ad also stars one of the plaintiffs from the case which struck down Oregon's ban, Ben West (above right).

Mediaite reports:

“Marrying my husband was the happiest day of my life,” West says in the ad. “I was proud of Oregon and our country. But there’s a lot of work left to do. Whether it’s standing up for equality or for the unemployed or for the next generation, we need leaders who have the courage to do what’s right. That’s why I support Monica Wehby. I know she’ll fight for every Oregon family, including mine.”

Kudos to Wehby! The probability of her winning the race is slim as she currently trails Merkley in the polls by 13 points, but the blatantly supportive message is admirable to say the least.

Check out the campaign ad, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "GOP Senate Candidate From Oregon To Run Pro-Marriage Equality Ad: VIDEO" »


Senate Resolution Will Call on International Olympic Committee to Denounce Russian Anti-Gay Law

MerkleySenator Jeff Merkley will introduce a Senate resolution urging the International Olympic Committee to denounce Russia's anti-gay laws and demand guarantees that it won't be enforced during the Sochi Games, Buzzfeed reports:

The resolution will ask the IOC both to oppose the law itself and to receive a guarantee that athletes and spectators will not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at the Sochi Winter Olympics, Merkley spokesman Jamal Raad said. The language is still being finalized, however, and he said the resolution will not be introduced formally until the Senate returns from its August recess.

The resolution would be the Senate’s first formal statement regarding the Russian law, which was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June.

For all our updates on the Sochi Olympics and the controversy surrounding gay athletes and the 2014 games, click HERE.

Make sure not to miss a Towleroad headline by following @TLRD on Twitter.


Jeff Merkley In Talks With Key Republicans to Support ENDA

Michelangelo Signorile writes in the Huffington Post:

Jeff_merkleyPointing to the dramatically-changed political climate on marriage equality and LGBT issues, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) said yesterday that he’s been having talks with key Republicans in the Senate about supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and which he reintroduced in the Senate on Thursday.

Said Merkley about his talks with those GOP senators:

"I can tell you I’ve sat down with a number of Republicans who have not come out publicly yet. They’re still mulling over what they’re going to do, but I think there’s a very good chance they’re going to be supporting this bill. Whether that comes in a co-sponsorship or an affirmative vote when we are on the floor is yet to be seen. But I think that our numbers will be increasing both in sponsorship and in a floor vote than where we would have been had we had a floor vote even two years ago or four years ago."

Sounds promising.

Watch a HuffPo video interview with Signorile on the topic and also listen to his radio interview with Merkley, AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading "Jeff Merkley In Talks With Key Republicans to Support ENDA" »


Watch: Trans Retired U.S. Army Col. Diane Schroer on ENDA

Merkley

Although there were no transgender witnesses at yesterday's ENDA hearings, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) made sure transgender voices were heard. Retired U.S. Army Col. Diane Schroer and Earline Budd spoke at a press conference before the ENDA hearings yesterday. Officer Mike Carney spoke as well.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Watch: Trans Retired U.S. Army Col. Diane Schroer on ENDA" »


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