Christian backlash against US gay legislation

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Evangelical Christians in the United States have attacked proposals to protect LGBT people from employment discrimination and a new hate crimes bill.

Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, which describes itself as a “national organisation devoted exclusively to exposing and countering the homosexual activist agenda,” is one of several groups protesting against the Employment Non Discrimination Act, currently before Congress.

AFTAH founder Peter LaBarbera said that “homosexuality is not a civil right; it is a human wrong – one that is redeemable as proven by thousands of contented former homosexuals and ex-lesbians.”

He also claims that White House staff member “boasted to pro-family leaders attending a private Administration briefing that White House staffers were involved in the negotiations to craft expanded religious exemption language for the new ENDA bill.”

Last week a leading black preacher, Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr, accused “aggressive activists” of infringing the liberties of others and hijacking the civil rights movement.

“I find it is an insult for myself as an African American that you are granting through this law special protection for sexual orientation that might only be imagined,” he said.

Thousands of Christian Right activists gathered at last weekend’s Washington Briefing 2007: Values Voter Summit, organised by the Family Research Council.

It was attended by several Republican candidates for President, among the Senator John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney.

FRC President Tony Perkins said that the US Senate vote on a hate crimes bill is “a discriminatory move creating second-class victims.”

Called the Matthew Shepard Act, after the gay man beaten and left to die, tied to a fence, in freezing conditions in Wyoming in 1998, the hate crimes law would strengthen the ability of federal, state and local governments to investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It would also enable the US Justice Department to assist in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.

According to the FBI, sexual orientation bias motivated 14% of such crimes in 2005.

ENDA will be voted on by the House of Representatives this week.

A version protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual people at work passed the House Education and Labour Committee last Thursday.

Representative Tammy Baldwin has secured an agreement from the Democratic leadership to introduce an amendment on the floor of the House reintroducting protections for trans people.

They were removed from the original bill when it appeared that they would not receive as much support as LGB protections and would cause ENDA to fail to pass in the House.

A coalition of more than 300 rights groups under the banner of United ENDA opposed the move.

ENDA’s supporters in the Senate will need the votes of 60 of the 100 Senators rather than a simple majority to overcome expected Republican attempts to kill the legislation.

87% of the top Fortune 500 companies in the US already provide protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The US military and religious organisations are excluded from the legislation, which also does not force employers to extend benefits to same-sex partners.