Update July 8, 2014: Out & Equal Workplace Advocates joins the cascade of LGBT rights organizations – including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union and Pride at Work – in withdrawing our support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as it is currently written.
The religious exemption is too broad, going far beyond the reasonable exemption that exists in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII already provides an ideal model for how to address religious needs in workplaces centered on religion.
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates know ENDA is needed to protect the millions of LGBT employees who have no workplace protections in 29 states - 33 if transgender – but and ENDA that leaves so many people open to discrimination defeats the point. Out & Equal will only support and ENDA that provides the same religious exemption in Title VII that has worked well the past 50 years. LGBT employees deserve no less protection than what is already covered by sex and race.
“Among the hundreds of corporations we work with that stand with us for workplace equality, none use religious exemptions to decide who gets benefits,” said Out & Equal spokesperson, Thom Lynch. “Most companies today understand that equality is good for business and we find it hopeful that corporations are becoming the new LGBT rights advocates. We saw it in Georgia and Arizona earlier this year when corporations blocked passage of anti-gay accommodation laws in the name of religious freedom. We are hopeful the same corporations will call for a stronger ENDA.”
The Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby ruling raises the stakes. What was initially described as a narrow ruling for family-run businesses in the matter of healthcare is quickly morphing into a license to discriminate against LGBT employees. Religious leaders immediately began lobbying President Obama to impose a broad religious exemption in his promised executive order protecting the LGBT employees of federal contractors.
It is important, now more than ever, that a strong federal law protect all LGBT employees. The current ENDA falls far too short.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is the legislation proposed in the United States Congress that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This legislation pertains to all civilian, non-religious employers with at least 15 employees. In it's current form it contains a broad religious exemption.
According to the annual Harris Poll on workplace culture, commissioned by Out & Equal, 76% of Americans believe that workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees already exist and are unaware that it is legal to discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity under U.S. federal law. 82% believe that these protections should exist. In 29 states, it's legal to fire someone simply for being gay, lesbian or bisexual, and in 33 states, employers can legally fire someone for being transgender. If approved, ENDA would protect LGBT employees across the country from discrimination based on irrational prejudice.
On June 4, 2013 Out & Equal Workplace Advocates released A Broken Bargain, a comprehensive landmark report in partnership with the Movement Advancement Project, the Center for American Progress, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Work, SEIU, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Partnership for Women and Families and the Small Business Majority. The report details how LGBT employees might have the same job as a coworker, yet be legally fired, denied equal benefits and required to pay thousands of dollars more in taxes simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers illustrates how America’s basic bargain—that those who work hard can get ahead—is broken for LGBT workers. The report vividly demonstrates that antiquated and discriminatory laws make it harder for LGBT workers to provide for themselves and their families, and offers detailed policy recommendations for addressing those inequities.
Click here to view the executive summary.
View the condensed version.
View the full report.
Equality advocates have been trying to pass workplace protection laws for more than thirty years. In 1974, on the fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Representatives Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY) introduced the Equality Act, which would have extended sexual orientation to the protected classes specified in the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. In the early 1990s, supporters of the legislation decided to focus on employment.
ENDA has been introduced every Congress since 1994, except the 109th (effectively 2005-2006). In 2007 gender identity provisions were added to the bill. Some sponsors were of the opinion that these additions would make the bill difficult to pass and gender identity was dropped from the bill. It passed in the House, but died in the Senate. Even if it had passed the Senate, former President George W. Bush had stated his intention to veto the bill if passed. To add to the complications, legislators and LGBT organizations were divided over the modified bill. Some organizations, including Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, felt that it was simply unfair to exclude gender identity from a workplace protection bill.
In 2009, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced a transgender inclusive version of ENDA in the House. He introduced it again in 2011 and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced it into the Senate. President Barack Obama supports the bill’s passage.
On April 25, 2013 Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced an ENDA bill in the House (H.R. 1755) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced and ENDA bill in the Senate (S. 815). The bill has 178 co-sponsors in the House and 53 in the Senate. On July 10, 2013 the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) reviewed and passed ENDA with a 15-7 vote, making history by approving a trans-inclusive ENDA for the first time.
The Senate voted on the bill on November 7 and it was passed by a 64-32 vote. It is stalled in the House as the Speaker, John Boehner, has repeatedly stated that he will not allow a vote to take place.
The time is now for us to tell our elected representatives they must protect all Americans from discrimination by ensuring federal workplace protections for LGBT people commensurate with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
We are continually striving to provide resources that will help create better workplaces for LGBT individuals, in our mission for workplace equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, or characteristics.
Out & Equal Resources
• Read the 2013 Business Case for LGBT-Friendly Policies released May 2013 by the Williams institute.
• Understand how discrimination in the public sector affects LGBT government workers in the Center for American Progress' report: Gay and Transgender Discrimination in the Public Sector.
• Read the latest Out & Equal blog posts on the status of ENDA and other non-discrimination laws.
• Read about the "20 Steps to an Out & Equal Workplace," and use the toolkit to learn how to put them into practice.
• Wondering where LGBT employees are? Learn more about best practices for LGBT Self IDentification Metrics in the 2009 Self ID Report.
• Take a look at the Advocacy Frontier.
• Read up on the findings presented in the Council for Global Equality's latest report, Anchoring Equality: How US Corporations Can Build Equal and Inclusive Work Environments.
• Read the William Institute's report "Bias in the Workplace: Consistent Evidence of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination," documenting the widespread and persistent pattern of employment discrimination against LGBT people in both private and public employment.
Maps of LGBT rights
Visualize equality across the United States with the Movement Advancement Project's state-by-state interactive maps.