US: House Representative minimises religious exemption in ENDA

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Congressman Jared Polis, an out gay sponsor for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), minimised the religious exemption in the bill earlier this week without an official announcement.

The resolution by Polis, a Democrat from Colorado, seeks to have sexual orientation and gender identity be treated like any other protected class under the Civil Rights Act.

The resolution says of religious organisations: “Such organizations are not exempt from the requirements of this Act to refrain from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in the same manner as is required with respect to discrimination based on race, color, sex, and national origin under such title.”

Polis filed the resolution Tuesday in an effort to force a vote on the stalled legislation.

House Speaker John Boehner has refused to bring ENDA to a vote, despite recognizing the importance of other civil rights legislation.

Polis’ latest move is part of a rarely used strategy known as a discharge petition, Buzzfeed reports.

A discharge petition seeks to bring a bill out of committee and to the floor for consideration, even without the support or official announcement of leadership.

It is a rarely used and rarely successfully executed tactic.

Polis’ representative told BuzzFeed this move was just one option currently under consideration by Polis in his commitment to have ENDA heard by the House.

The resolution, however, is likely not to move forward in current Congress, where it would need support from all House Democrats and 19 Republicans to pass.

Rea Carey, executive director of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a release: “LGBT people need strong protections from discrimination; we have waited too long for anything less.

“Legal equality is legal equality, and now that President Obama has signed the LGBT federal contractor and federal employee executive order, it’s time for Congress to finish the job and pass legislation that would protect all LGBT workers from discrimination.

“We urge law makers to seize this moment to create long-lasting change.”

In June, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center, FreedomOhio, Equality New Mexico, Wyoming Equality and the Transgender Education Network of Texas all dropped support of the bill, saying it would give religious people a ‘license to discriminate’.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and The American Civil Liberties Union both withdrew their support in two separate announcements on 8 July.

The Human Rights Campaign continues to support ENDA despite other organisations dropping their support.