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Faith Leaders Ask President Obama For ‘Robust Religious Exemption’ From Executive Order On Anti-LGBT Discrimination: READ

Letter

As mentioned in our coverage of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision earlier today, religious leaders close to The White House sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday, petitioning for a "robust religious exemption" to President Obama's earlier announced executive order that would make it illegal for all federal contractors to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, The Washington Post reports. This letter comes on the heels of a previouis letter from 140 religious leaders asking for a similar exemption. Importantly, Tuesday's letter was sent in the immediate wake of the Hobby Lobby decision at the Supreme Court. The letter argues that religiously affiliated organizations should be able to discriminate against LGBT people:

The letter reminds Obama of his own earlier faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage, as well as the government’s massive partnerships with faith-based social service groups that work on issues including housing, disaster relief and hunger. […]

“An executive order that does not include a religious exemption will significantly and substantively hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped to serve in common purpose with the federal government.,” it said. “When the capacity of religious organizations is limited, the common good suffers.” […]

“Without a robust religious exemption . . . this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom.”

None of the groups mentioned in the letter have explicitly said they would pull out of their partnerships with the White House if they do not get an exemption.

Executive Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights Kate Kendell commented on the request for a religious exemption, stating, "This would be a catastrophic erosion of non-discrimination protections. We will not stand for this.”

6a00d8341c730253ef01a511b8305a970c-150wiMeanwhile, Former Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Towleroad guest blogger Matt Foreman, also took issue with narrower interpretations of The Hobby Lobby ruling and asserted how disastrous it would be for the LGBT community should Hobby Lobby influence a religious exemption to President Obama's executive order:

Such an exemption would have been bad enough before Hobby Lobby, but the decision makes it even more deadly. The Hobby Lobby majority said the decision shouldn't be read to undermine employment nondiscrimination laws. BUT if the EO contains the ENDA exemption, there's nothing to stop the reasoning in Hobby Lobby from having full force and effect in justifying anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors - pushing the door even more widely open for discrimination against our people for essentially any reason whatsoever.

The only acceptable religious exemption is the one long-contained in Title VII. Anything else can spell disaster for years to come, including profoundly weakening the impact of future federal nondiscrimination laws and our hopes to secure meaningful civil rights protections in the 29 states that still lack them.

There is no moral or political justification for President Obama to cave and endorse LGBT people having less protections from discrimination than other Americans. This issue is not a side show; it is core to our equality.

You can read the letter to the President for yourself, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Tobias Wolff: ‘Hobby Lobby Decision Supports The Enforceability Of Anti-Discrimination Laws’

Wolff

As pointed out yesterday by Rachel Maddow, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby, religious groups have already begun seeking “religious freedom” exemptions from an executive order that bans federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people. While alarm bells have begun to ring for many gay rights advocates, University of Pennsylvania law professor and Obama legal adviser Tobias Wolff has issued a statement that may be intended to allay fears about any potential detrimental impact that Hobby Lobby could have on LGBT rights. Wolff argues that Hobby Lobby does not open the floodgates of state sanctioned anti-gay discrimination on the grounds of first amendment religious exceptionalism, but rather is more limited in scope and in fact upholds anti-discrimination protections.

Wolff writes,

It is important to understand that Hobby Lobby in fact rejects the argument that religious exercise can be an excuse for invidious discrimination. The following is the key passage of the decision, which the Court inserted specifically to respond to the suggestion that its ruling could authorize discrimination in the workplace:

"The principal dissent raises the possibility that discrimination in hiring, for example on the basis of race, might be cloaked as religious practice to escape legal sanction. See post, at 32-33. Our decision today provides no such shield. The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race, and prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.” […] 

- In this passage from Hobby Lobby, the Court…makes clear that laws and policies that prohibit discrimination in the workplace are "precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal". In other words, it is the act of discriminating itself -- which deprives the individual worker of "an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce" -- that inflicts the harm that the government has a compelling interest to eradicate. This passage strongly repudiates the argument that opponents sometimes make that there is no compelling interest in enforcing anti-discrimination laws if a person could find another job or patronize another business. Every act of private discrimination works a serious harm that the government has a compelling interest in eradicating.

In the days ahead, it is important that advocates and leaders strongly push out the message that the Hobby Lobby decision strongly supports the enforceability of anti-discrimination laws, even in the face of religious exemption arguments. Hobby Lobby represents a vindication of the principle that anti-discrimination protections should trump religious objections in the workplace.

You can read Wolff’s full statement, AFTER THE JUMP…

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Rachel Maddow On How The SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Ruling Is Already Being Used To Justify Anti-Gay Discrimination: VIDEO

Rachel

Last night Rachel Maddow took time to focus on the broad and dangerous impact of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, particularly, how the claim of “religious freedom" is already being used by religious groups to justify anti-gay discrimination:

"These groups want their religious beliefs to excuse them from having to follow the law on, not just contraception, not just health law rules, but on non-discrimination. They now, because of this ruling, want a religious exemption from laws that say you can't fire someone for being gay. They want to be able to fire people for being gay because they think God wants that."

Watch the segment, AFTER THE JUMP...

You can also read Ari Ezra Waldman's incisive analysis of the Hobby Lobby ruling HERE

Continue reading "Rachel Maddow On How The SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Ruling Is Already Being Used To Justify Anti-Gay Discrimination: VIDEO" »


George Takei Promotes Hobby Lobby Boycott Over SCOTUS Ruling

Takei

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing companies like Hobby Lobby not to cover contraception compelled openly gay actor George Takei to support a boycott against it and other companies that choose “to impose [their] religious beliefs on... employees.”

In part, Takei’s blog post reads:

… As Justice Ginsberg’s stinging dissent pointed out, companies run by Scientologists could refuse to cover antidepressants, and those run by Jews or Hindus could refuse to cover medications derived from pigs (such as many anesthetics, intravenous fluids, or medications coated in gelatin)… one wonders whether the case would have come out differently if a Muslim-run chain business attempted to impose Sharia law on its employees.

As many have pointed out, Hobby Lobby is the same company that invests in Pfizer and Teva Pharmaceuticals, makers of abortion inducing-drugs and the morning after pill. It also buys most of its inventory from China, where forced abortions are common. The hypocrisy is galling.  

… Once the law starts permitting exceptions based on “sincerely held religious beliefs” there’s no end to the mischief and discrimination that will ensue. Indeed, this is the same logic that certain restaurants and hotels have been trying to deploy to allow proprietors to refuse service to gay couples.

We are a nation that respects religious beliefs, but also the right not to have those beliefs imposed upon you by others…

While we work to overturn this decision by legislation, people of good conscious should BOYCOTT any for-profit business, including Hobby Lobby, which chooses to impose its religious beliefs on its employees.

The only way such companies ever learn to treat people with decency and tolerance is to hit them where it counts–in their pocketbooks. I won’t be shopping there, and women everywhere should exercise their right of protest and refuse to shop there as well.

In related news, Twitter users have begun skewering Hobby Lobby’s win by using the #DrHobbyLobby hashtag to ask the company ironic questions about women’s health.

The feminist blog Jezebel also has a list of 82 other companies and organizations that oppose health care coverage for birth control.


Handsome Guitar Player Sing-Splains Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Hobby Lobby Dissent: VIDEO

Screenshot 2014-07-01 12.44.40

In 2009, YouTuber Jonathan Mann made a name for himself with his “Song A Day” challenge. Over the years, Mann has mined the minutiae of his everyday life and current events for song ideas, but his 2007th song is perhaps his most clever, collaborative effort.  “Ginsberg’s Hobby Lobby Dissent,” is exactly what you think it is, and it’s amazing. Rather than putting a heavy spin on Justice Ginsberg’s scathing 35-page dissent to yesterday’s 5-4 decision in Hobby Lobby’s favor, Mann decided to just sing it more or less outright.

Watch Jonathan Mann belt out RBG’s dissent, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Supreme Court Limits Obamacare's Contraception Coverage

BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

6a00d8341c730253ef01a73dd60f4d970d-300wiIn the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting today in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:

In the Court’s view, [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith—in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ. Persuaded that Congress enacted RFRA to serve a far less radical purpose, and mindful of the havoc the Court’s judgment can introduce, I dissent. 

"Havoc" is one mild, understated way to put it. I would add "dangerous," "unprecedented," and "violent."

BrYbC7YCMAAOCqRWhen last we heard about Obamacare, the number of enrollees had exceeded certain Administration expectations. But if you recall, these enrollments were only allowed to happen after the Supreme Court concluded that the central piece of the law -- the individual mandate that requires people to have insurance -- is constitutional.

Today, Obamacare is back in legal news. In a 5-4 decision in Hobby Lobby, the Court held that family-owned corporations can opt out of generally applicable laws for religious reasons. You can read the full decision here. I previewed the legal issues back in March because this case has dangerous implications for the future of LGBT equality.

This case is a so-called religious freedom challenge to a federal law. The Affordable Care Act requires that health care plans provide their customers with certain contraceptives and contraceptive services free of charge. Hobby Lobby, a closely-held (that is a fancy legal term for "family-run") chain of retail arts and crafts stores run by a deeply religious family, took issue with providing its employees with contraceptives that it believed violated the owners' religious beliefs. The company challenged the requirement, arguing that corporations can have religious rights, should be able to sue to protect those rights, and that Obamacare violated its freedom of religion.

Many of us are concerned about our health care and the health care of others. This decision impacts directly all of us who work for companies that provide health insurance: granted, today's decision only applied to private, closely-held companies; but there is little in the opinion to prevent expansion down the road.

However, more to the point, Hobby Lobby sets a dangerous precedent in the gay rights universe. Gay equality laws -- from marriage equality laws in New York to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that passed the U.S. Senate -- have religious exemptions. States that gained marriage equality by judicial decision still have vocal opponents whose arguments (perhaps pretextual) are based on religious freedom. They say they should not be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding, or rent out their catering halls for gays, or provide any services to gay couples because they oppose gay marriage. If Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts company that has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, can exempt itself from a federal law aimed at providing equal access to all, then perhaps a baker or a florist or a limousine driver can do the same to us.

Religious exemptions and religious freedom arguments can grow to a point where they endanger equality. Our community cannot simply be satisfied with Windsor, the post-Windsor marriage equality winning streak, and the prospect of an impending second shot at the Supreme CourtHobby Lobby could undo much of it.

AFTER THE JUMP, I discuss the Hobby Lobby decision, its dangers, and its limitations.

Continue reading "Supreme Court Limits Obamacare's Contraception Coverage" »


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