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Posts tagged "LGBT Rights"

h/t: Philip Francis and Mark Longhurst at The Atlantic


WASHINGTON — Some of the largest national LGBT rights groups — unified on the marriage equality fight in recent years — have begun a very public debate over a piece of another key goal: religious exemptions in employment protections.

The fight, which broke out into the open on Tuesday, is about scope of religious exemptions in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was passed by the Senate this past fall. Notably, it comes as an executive order about employment protections is being drafted at the White House and in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling in Hobby Lobby.

While the debate isn’t new, the method of raising the stakes of the debate on Tuesday was stark: Seven national organizations — including the ACLU and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force — announced in three separate statements that they were withdrawing their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act due to its current, broad religious exemption.

The lead sponsor of ENDA in the Senate, Sen. Jeff Merkley, told BuzzFeed in a statement that even he has “concerns” about where things stand. Merkley’s office said the senator continues to support the bill but that he is looking to make “fixes” going forward with regard to the religious exemption in the bill.

One of the key House co-sponsors, Rep. Jerry Nadler, told the Washington Blade that he thinks the religious exemption is too broad and will work to narrow it in the House.

For years, the religious exemption in ENDA has kept growing. In order to grab more moderate Republican support (and the Democratic holdouts) for the legislation that was first introduced in the mid-1990s, the religious exemption has been expanded enough that Sens. Orrin Hatch and John McCain, along with a handful of other Republicans, supported the bill when the Senate voted on it last year.

Here is the religious exemption in the version of ENDA passed by the Senate this passed fall:

While Title VII provides a broad exemption from its religious anti-discrimination requirements, race, sex, and national origin anti-discrimination measures have a more narrow one. ENDA borrows the broader religious exemption — previously only applied to religious anti-discrimination requirements — and applies it to sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition to the Task Force and ACLULambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, and Pride at Work all withdrew their support for ENDA on Tuesday because of that religious exemption.

Supportive lawmakers see that that ground is shifting, although they were not going so far as to oppose the legislation itself. “I am very concerned about the religious exemption in the ENDA bill that passed the Senate,” Nadler told theBlade. “I think it is overbroad and I will of course work hard with my colleagues to narrow it appropriately.” He added that his concerns were amplified by the Hobby Lobby ruling.

Merkley, in a statement to BuzzFeed, echoed Nadler’s concerns, saying, “I share concerns about the Supreme Court’s overly broad reading of religious exemptions. I will keep working with advocates and Members on both sides of the aisle to address this issue. Workplace discrimination against the LGBT community is wrong and must end.”

Although the attention Tuesday was on ENDA, there is no expectation that ENDA will be moving this year in the House — meaning the discussion about the bill is, for the most part, posturing. So, what is the posturing about?

Three things.

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

1. Hobby Lobby made them do it — at least that’s what they are saying.

The most clear posturing in the statements on Tuesday was with regard to Hobby Lobby. The decision is fresh in people’s minds — regardless of whether the specifics of the decision are understood or even applicable to ENDA.

From the first statement by the Task Force’s Rea Carey, Tuesday’s flood of comments were pegged as coming “after the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling,” in “a changed and intensified landscape of broad religious exemptions being used as an excuse to discriminate.”

The ruling in Hobby Lobby was about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s applicability to for-profit corporations and whether that applicability could then be used to exempt Hobby Lobby from the contraception mandate implemented by Health and Human Services under the Affordable Care Act. Justice Samuel Alito specifically disclaimed the impact on anti-discrimination laws (although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed concerns), and ENDA’s religious exemption is not directly implicated by the ruling.

Both Merkley and Nadler nonetheless said the Hobby Lobby ruling impacted their thinking on the religious exemption in ENDA, with Nadler saying that following the ruling, “[W]e must be more careful than ever to ensure that religious liberty is not wielded as a sword against employees who may not share their employers’ religious beliefs.”

In addition, in the statement from the ACLU and LGBT legal groups Tuesday announcing that they were no longer supporting ENDA because of the broad religious exemption, they stated, “Given the types of workplace discrimination we see increasingly against LGBT people, together with the calls for greater permission to discriminate on religious grounds that followed immediately upon the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has become clear that the inclusion of this provision is no longer tenable.”

Jose Luis Magana / Reuters

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (center) with Sen. Jeff Merkley (left).

2. This is actually a fight over the LGBT non-discrimination bill to be written in the next Congress.

Even though it’s only July, much of the undercurrent of today’s fight over ENDA is actually a fight over what tomorrow’s bill — the bill considered in the next session of Congress — will look like.

This fight began, in a way, when the debate over Arizona’s religious exemption bill went national, but the fact that new, focused attention will be given to the way federal legislation will be drafted in the next Congress was made very clear on Tuesday.

Making no specific comments about the religious exemption, the Human Rights Campaign is standing by ENDA — with a spokesman telling BuzzFeed on Tuesday, “HRC supports ENDA because it will provide essential workplace protections to millions of LGBT people.”

With no expectation of House movement this year, though, the comments by HRC — or the Task Force or ACLU or anyone other than House Speaker John Boehner — are somewhat irrelevant. The real question is what the bill will look like when introduced in the next session of Congress. Will it only focus on employment, or will it include additional areas like public accommodations, housing, education, or lending? And, regarding today’s debate, will it include a streamlined religious exemption or will it continue building on this year’s exemption? (None of this even gets into Republicans’ support for the bill, and whether their support — from key congressional supporters like Sens. Susan Collins and Mark Kirk and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to the American Unity Fund and Log Cabin Republicans — is contingent upon the religious exemption remaining as is.)

Even some of the other organizations still supporting today’s ENDA, like the National Center for Transgender Equality and Freedom to Work, signaled to BuzzFeed that next year could be different with regard to the religious exemption.

While Freedom to Work’s Tico Almeida continues to support ENDA, as passed by the Senate, he said of the group’s work to lobby for ENDA this year that “increasing the numbers of co-sponsors of ENDA this year increases the chances of a stronger bill getting introduced next year.” When asked if getting “a stronger bill” included seeking a more narrow religious exemption, Almeida said that it did.

For her part, NCTE’s Mara Keisling noted up front that “NCTE has been a leader for seven years in advocating for narrower religious exemptions in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” Right now, though, she said that NCTE was focusing on its upcoming lobby day, which will be focusing on increasing support for ENDA in the House.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

President Barack Obama

3. The LGBT federal contractor executive order is being drafted right now.

The White House is preparing an executive order for Obama to sign that will bar federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — and LGBT groups want to make it perfectly clear to Obama and others that ENDA’s religious exemption would be unacceptable to them.

With last week’s letter signed by Rick Warren and others and draft letter circulated by Jim Wallis seeking a strong religious exemption — similar to the ENDA religious exemption — in the executive order, LGBT groups and allies are trying to move quickly and forcefully to push the counterargument.

On Tuesday, two letters were sent to the White House — one from the heads of statewide LGBT groups and another from progressive religious leaders — pressing the White House to include no more broad of a religious exemption in the executive order than that given with regard to other classes in other anti-discrimination measures.

For the organizations withdrawing their support from ENDA, they are talking about the religious exemption contained in ENDA — but they also are sending a message that such an exemption would clearly not be acceptable to them in the executive order.

There is an argument to be made that, even if the ENDA religious exemption remains, a more narrow exemption for federal contractors could be justified because they are seeking federal funds. For those organizations withdrawing their support from ENDA, this takes that more nuanced and complicated discussion out of the talking points. It sends a simple message that those LGBT groups are no longer accepting religious exemptions different than those established for other anti-discrimination measures, such as those barring racial or sex-based discrimination.

Doing so now, far more than because of Hobby Lobby or in anticipation of next year’s fight, is the key time to act to influence the White House on the executive order.

Source: Chris Geidner for Buzzfeed

h/t: David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement

h/t: Dylan Scott at TPM


AP: A White House official said Monday that President Obama will sign an order banning discrimination against federal contractors on the basis of their sexual orientation.

SCOTUS likely has no choice but to rule in favor of marriage equality no later than 2016.

HB 5707, a bill aimed at curbing school bullying in the state, is now waiting for Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.

The legislation, sponsored by lesbian state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, passed the Senate May 29 with 37 votes in favor after being amended, and proceeded to pass the house with 75 votes in favor of concurrence.

"Bullying in our schools has dramatic impacts on the victims and disrupts the educational process as a whole" Cassidy said in a statement. "The effects are devastating and well documented: victims have reduced academic achievement, lower involvement and are often forced out of school. Our schools must be safe and welcoming for all students, and this bill is a significant step towards that goal."

The bill lays out a clear bullying policy for schools as well as responsive measures. It also directs that schools compile and report data on bullying incidents.

"What I hear from [families of bullied children] so often, when they speak with schools or police, is that they are often told, ‘You are the first ones this has happened to’—that opens the door to blaming the victim," Cassidy told Windy City Times shortly after the bill passed out of committee in March. "With this, you can go back and verify that something else happened on a particular date."

An anti-bullying measure failed in the Senate in 2012 by just one vote. Cassidy has said the new measure is stronger and includes some facets that had to be deleted before.

"A comprehensive approach is needed to solve this issue," Cassidy said in the May 29 statement. "By giving school districts the tools to combat bullying, with an emphasis on restorative practices and accountability through data, we can help ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for children and schools."

h/t: Matt Simonette at Windy City Times

H/T: Josh Israel at Think Progress LGBT

H/T: Kyle Mantyla at RWW

h/t: RMuse at PoliticusUSA


Gay Rights Legislation in Europe


While the state of Missouri celebrates that one of its most recent college football stars, Michael Sam, will remain in The Show Me State with the St. Louis Rams, his high-profile job may be a galvanizing force for securing LGBT rights in Missouri.

Sam, who will report to the team in July for training, may become a symbol for efforts to overturn Missouri’s laws on marriage equality, or address its workplace antidiscrimination protections, and other LGBT rights issues, according to USA Today.

The state’s current nondiscrimination act currently does not include protections for LGBT workers, according to the statewide equality organization, PROMO. The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA, is up for consideration, and would extend the existing law to prohibit employment, housing, and public accommodation discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill was the subject of a public hearing in March, but has yet to pass.

Dara Strickland, an attorney and the board president of the LGBT Community Center in St. Louis, said a gay person can apply for jobs in the state, but there “there’s no protection for bwing asked, ‘By the way, are you gay?’ and being explicitly told, ‘You know, we don’t hire gay people.’”

As far as marriage equality, the state has had a constitutional ban on the books since 2004. In February, the ACLU and PROMO filed a lawsuit challenging the ban on behalf of eight same-sex couples.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Missouri also lacks LGBT protections for housing, public accommodations, and has limited protections against bullying for LGBT students. The state does address hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.


Jars of Clay Frontman Dan Haseltine Posts Apology On Using Twitter As A Venue For Advocating Marriage Equality, But Doesn’t Apologize For His Support of Marriage Equality

Dan Haseltine, lead singer of the popular Christian folk rock band Jars of Clay, gained much attention last week when tweeted for three days about marriage equality and religion—but not all the attention was positive.

Many in the LGBT community were moved by the public Christian figure’s call to love, support, and not judge people are gay. Additionally, many followers appreciated Dan’s attempt to calmly facilitate difficult conversations. According to subsequent tweets, however, it seems that numerous outlets, Twitter followers, and even Jars of Clay fans did not react positively:

I trust Scripture. I don’t think the treatment of gays must begin with the conversation of “right or wrong” we are to love either way.

— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 25, 2014

I hope that helps at least the folks calling me a heretic and a humanist..etc to have a little more free time. Goodnight. -Dan

— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 25, 2014

If the knee jerk reaction is to spit venom or become defensive, how do we listen? How do we honor honest searchers of truth?

— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 25, 2014

If your immediate response was to get angry or to call me out as stupid or ignorant as I processed ideas in the public forum.. Why?

— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 25, 2014

When you looked at my tweet and it didn’t line up with your belief and so you offered a hateful or judgmental response… Why?

— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 25, 2014

Last Month, the ecumenical Christian Charity World Vision reversed its decision to welcome openly LGBT employees after receiving negative backlash from notorious anti-LGBT pundits, who doubted the organization’s religious convictions. While Dan has seemingly been confronted with a similar firestorm, he did not retract his LGBT-affirming stance.

Ultimately, Dan urged everyone to visit his blog to gain clarity and insight into his initial tweets:

charisma and other media outlets are still running mis-informed posts even after I have clarified some things.

— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 26, 2014

There, on Friday, Dan published a lengthy post titled “Reset. (Context…Tangent…Apology)”.


In my questions and dialogue with people on Twitter, it became evident that the issue I had chosen to discuss was far too personal, nuanced, and deeply connected to faith and our human condition to honor the amount of wrestling that others have done on this topic.  And though they were my questions and it was a dialogue provoked by me, it bled into the Jars of Clay world, and my other band mates felt people’s dismay, frustration and the projection of my views and ideas back on to them. It is not theirs to shoulder. 

It was a poor choice of venue on my part.  I chose some of my words poorly.  And I was unable to moderate the conversation in such a way that it kept everyone’s views with a shared validity and civility as I had hoped.    And so, I am not going to continue the conversation on that forum.  I do apologize for causing such a negative stir. 

In the coming days, I will begin posting some questions on my blog (, and even doing some interviews around this topic, as I believe there can be healthy dialogue and better understanding even if there is not shared agreement.  I am dedicated to being a life long learner.

While Dan apologized for using an informal venue and for unintentionally causing negative reactions against his bandmates, he stood by his support for the LGBT community, and continued to explore Christianity as a lived practice:

Last week, Jars of Clay performed at a music festival in Australia. As part of the programming of the event, the festival offered various breakout sessions and panel discussions on a host of topics that might be interesting to the festival attendees.  I was invited to sit on a panel discussion about moral behavior and the church.  The question we were presented was, “Does the western church’s focus on moral behavior undermine the church’s ability to love? …

…The film [12 Years A Slave] had such incredible storytelling and superb acting that gave faces and souls to the men, women and children trapped in slavery.  The thing that continued to swirl around my mind was a scene when one of the slave owners was quoting scripture to slaves.  He was using the words to drive home a point about his supremacy over the slaves, and the wrath they would face if they were disobedient.
He was mis-using scripture to back up his acts of oppression toward another human.  He was using scripture to back up his idea that slaves were less than human, and so should not be given the rights of humans. 
I would not say that the issues of slavery, which are tied to color and race, clearly mirror the issues of gay rights.  But for some reason, all the questions I had surrounding gay marriage came rushing back.

In the heat of discussion, I communicated poorly and thus unintentionally wrote that I did not care about what scripture said.  Thus, the tsunami hit.  It was picked up by bloggers and written into editorials before I could blink.  And rightly so, people were shocked and offended by my statement dismissing the value of scripture.  I got it. And possibly, I got what that combination of statements warranted for response. I should’ve chosen my words more wisely.
I care about what scripture says.   It matters.

So, that said, Twitter is a great place to share selfies and a horrible forum for discussions and a bad place to communicate under the fog of jetleg.

To show your support for Dan’s commitment to continuing the conversation and for his ongoing belief in LGBT equality—despite the criticisms he’s received as a result— you can tweet him at @scribblepotemus.

h/t: Zack Ford at Think Progress LGBT

h/t: J. Lester Feder at BuzzFeed