Major LGBT rights and progressives groups, including Lambda Legal and the ACLU, have withdrawn their support for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that seeks to ban workplace discrimination against LGBT workers in the private sector, because ENDA includes a broad exemption for religious organizations, including religiously affiliated hospitals and charities, for instance. The act passed the Senate last year, when it was supported by these same groups, despite the religious exemption.
But after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, finding that closely held businesses run by their owners on religious principles (but not necessarily religiously affiliated) need not be forced to purchase certain contraceptives for their workers, the left has found an issue.
ENDA, of course, appears to have no chance of being brought up in the GOP House, and the House is going to stay GOP controlled for the foreseeable future. So much of this is about ensuring that the president’s upcoming executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination among federal contractors doesn’t provide a religious exemption, except perhaps to houses of worship, and some would probably not want to see even that.
I don’t think business owners should be forced by the state to violate their religious consciences, and I am even more wary of the state telling religious organizations who they can hire, fire, or promote to leadership. But the issue becomes clouded when these organizations accept taxpayer money to serve the state.
Nevertheless religious organizations, or even private companies that can demonstrate they are run on religious principles, represent a tiny fraction of the workplace. And much of this controversy feels manufactured with the aim of inducing a certain amount of politically useful hysteria on the left.
More. Some politicos tell me that, at least before this latest contretemps, ENDA had enough GOP support in the House to pass if the leadership would allow it to be brought up for a vote. But that’s conditioned on a broad exemption for religiously affiliated organizations. So apart from pressuring Obama not to provide a meaningful religious exemption in his executive order, another result of the LGBT and progressive groups withdrawing their support for ENDA, as currently conceived, is to ensure that it has no chance of passing the House even if brought forward, thus keeping the issue of a “pure” ENDA alive for another round of Democratic electioneering and fundraising.
ENDA, it should be noted, languished in committee when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress during the first two years of the Obama presidency (2009-10), even as it appeared Republicans were likely to retake the House in the November 2010 midterm election, during which the party appealed to gay voters for funds and support (wait for it) in order to pass ENDA in the next Congress. Yes, kiddies, it’s all about politics and mobilizing the base, and always has been.
Furthermore. As the Washington Post article linked to above reports, the Human Rights Campaign is the outlier among LGBT groups, maintaining its support for a passable ENDA with a religious exemption clause. HRC very much wants, eventually, to claim a victory for ENDA, its top legislative agenda item. Other LGBT groups with rival fundraising operations, however, don’t see their interests aligned with passage anytime soon.