On Thursday, April 28th, the House Armed Services Committee voted to pass a discriminatory amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act introduced by Representative Steve Russell (R-OK). The amendment applies the private employer religious exemptions of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to religious organizations receiving any federal contract or grant – which could include universities and hospitals employing thousands of people.
“Thirty-three states still do not have complete nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people under state law. One of the few instances in which LGBTQ are protected is when they work for a business or organization that contracts with the federal government. Stripping away those protections under the guise of religious liberty, a protection already guaranteed in the First Amendment, is contrary to the principles of freedom and fairness Americans hold dear,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director. “Nobody should face discrimination in the workplace, especially when funded by taxpayers like you and me.”
The ADA exemption states that “a religious organization may require that all applicants and employees conform to the religious tenets of such organization.” It is unclear if this extra allowance would apply to only discrimination based on disability, or to all the protected characteristics. If it applies to all the protected characteristics, this would allow an organization to discriminate against anyone that they say isn’t conforming to their religion – if someone doesn’t regularly attend religious services, is in a same sex marriage, gets divorced, has pregnancy outside of wedlock, etc.
The amendment also undermines the protections for LGBT employees that were created when President Obama issued Executive Order 13672, which says that federal contractors cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment decisions. For religious organizations receiving any federal grant or contract, the amendment limits the protected characteristics to only those included in the CRA and the ADA, which includes race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and disability.
Equality Federation will work with our partners in the LGBTQ, civil rights, reproductive rights, disability rights and other communities to ensure this amendment is defeated.
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