While we savor this victory, we continue our efforts to develop new educational resources on the Act, and look ahead to our next challenge: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (H.R. 3017/S. 1584).
While there are existing federal laws to prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin and disability, there are no federal laws that protect employees from discrimination on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, in 30 states, an individual can be fired, refused a job, demoted or denied a promotion based on his or her sexual orientation. In 38 states, it is legal to do so because of an individual’s gender identity. ENDA would correct this egregious violation of civil rights and make such baseless discrimination illegal, ensuring that all Americans are judged solely on their qualifications and abilities in the workplace.
You might wonder what employment discrimination has to do with religious freedom. One of the central provisions of this bill, the religious exemption, exists solely to uphold religious freedom and is the reason a large and diverse group of religious organizations support ENDA. This provision releases religious organizations from the law’s requirements in the same way that religious organizations are exempted from other civil rights laws which enable them to hire individuals of the same religion. ENDA therefore simultaneously ensures that all Americans have equal access to jobs and promotions, and protects a house of worship’s right to favor prospective employees who share its religious convictions – provided they receive no federal money while doing so.
In early 2010, we expect the House of Representatives to vote on ENDA and we anticipate a vote in the Senate sometime in the spring. But Interfaith Alliance’s work continues behind the scenes, and you can help: urge your elected officials to support ENDA, if you haven’t already done so, and we’ll let you know when new opportunities for activism arise. We have also teamed up with a number of religious organizations to organize a letter to Congress from clergy members and faith leaders. If you, yourself, are a faith leader, please consider lending your signature.
As Rev. Gaddy has said on numerous occasions, “a vibrant democracy guarantees the protection of civil rights for everybody with no exception for sexual orientation…Passage of a fully inclusive ENDA, with appropriate religious exemptions, will be a victory for democracy and cause for celebration among all who value religious freedom.”