US: LGBT groups drop support of anti-discrimination law ENDA over ‘religious freedom’ exemption

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Several prominent LGBT groups have dropped their support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act over a ‘religious freedom’ exemption.

The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act was passed by the US Senate last year, but is being blocked by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

However, after a number of concessions to religious groups, some activists say the bill will now cause more harm than good.

The current language of the act would allow religious institutions – including churches, hospitals and schools – to continue to discriminate against LGBT employees, despite numerous teachers fired for being LGBT.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center, FreedomOhio, Equality New Mexico, Wyoming Equality and the Transgender Education Network of Texas all say that they can’t support the bill in its current form, because it would give religious people a ‘license to discriminate’.

Amber Royster of Equality New Mexico told the Washington Blade: “We do not support the proposed religious exemption, thus, we do not support the current version of ENDA.

“We hope our elected officials will see this religious exemption for what it is — a license to discriminate against LGBT people — and decide to remove it.”

Three further groups – Equality Delaware, the Kentucky Fairness Campaign and One Iowa, did not give their position on the bill as a whole, but expressed concern with the religious exemption.

Despite the groups dropping their support, the Blade found that 14 state groups – including Equality Illinois and Equality California – still supported the passage of the bill, along with national groups including the Human Rights Campaign and American Civil Liberties Union.

Dana Beyer of Gender Rights Marylands said: “We support the current ENDA.

“We also welcome the efforts being made to revise and narrow the exemptions, and hope that those efforts make it more likely that the House will pass the bill that has already passed the Senate.”