Gay rights groups pulling support of ENDA over Hobby Lobby ruling

Wed. July 9, 2014 8:25 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

One of the nation's largest LGBT rights groups on Tuesday withdrew its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force cited the Supreme Court's recent Hobby Lobby decision in announcing it was reversing its position on ENDA, which seeks to prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Hobby Lobby challenged the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement that insurance health plans include coverage for FDA-approved contraception, arguing that the law violates the company's religious freedom. In a split decision, the high court declared that some for-profit companies do not have to offer such coverage, if doing so conflicts with the religious beliefs of their owners.

ENDA, which cleared the Senate last year but faces a steep climb in the House, includes exemptions based on religion.

"If a private company can take its own religious beliefs and say you can't have access to certain health-care, it's a hop, skip and a jump to an interpretation that a private company could have religious beliefs that LGBT people are not equal or somehow go against their beliefs and therefore fire them," Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told The Washington Post. "We disagree with that trend. The implications of Hobby Lobby are becoming clear."

Carey added that her group does not "take this move lightly."

The Civil Rights Agenda, an Illinois-based LGBT rights advocate, pulled its support for ENDA last month, before the court handed down its ruling.

"In its current form ENDA would create broad religious exemptions that would take away rights from LGBT workers, and only from LGBT workers," Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, said in a statement."This is just discrimination dressed up in religion. This would be the first time that a special set of rules would apply to a minority as it relates to workplace discrimination and religion."

President Barack Obama last month announced that he was prepared to sign an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors.

Carey said her group is lobbying to ensure that the president's order does not include a broad religious exemption.

UPDATE: Citing similar concerns, five additional groups withdrew their support for ENDA in a joint statement, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Transgender Law Center.

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