Commentary

07.16.14

The End of ENDA (for now)

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Last week, the national ACLU ended their support for federal legislation that has the potential to provide workplace protections for LGBT individuals. This decision was not made lightly.

So much hard work has been poured into this important legislation. ENDA, or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, has been years in the making and it hasn’t been a pretty process. At one point, exclusions of transgendered individuals were written in as a compromise, but later taken out. In order to appease certain conservative members of Congress, religiously based organizations (including not just churches, but hospitals and universities) were given an exemption from the law. These exemptions have been the sticking point for the national ACLU and our allied organizations. And was the ultimate cause for the end of our support.

If one good thing can be said of the Hobby Lobby decision, it’s that it raised the national conscience of how dangerous religious exemptions can really be. Religion can’t be an excuse to discriminate against people of color or those with a disability, so why should it be any different if you are gay or transgender?

In an op-ed, national ACLU’s lobbyist Ian Thompson tells the story of how Matthew Barrett, an experienced food services worker, had a job offer rescinded from a catholic high school because he listed his husband as an emergency contact. It is for people like Matt Barrett that we must fight so hard to prevent religious exemptions. It is a fight for basic fairness. There is simply no reason why a person in food services can’t work in a catholic high school because they are gay.

Thankfully, in Ohio’s versions of ENDA we haven’t seen these kinds of exemptions…yet. However, this legislation has remained stalled for nearly a decade. The ACLU of Ohio remains fully committed to preventing changes to H.B. 163 and S.B. 125 that would exclude religious organizations from the law. We will continue to raise awareness and work hard to ensure that ALL Ohioans’ rights are protected.

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