Center for American Progress

RELEASE: ENDA Advances Workplace Equality and Protects Religious Liberty
Press Release

RELEASE: ENDA Advances Workplace Equality and Protects Religious Liberty

Read “The Freedom to Work, the Freedom to Worship
Read “A State-by-State Examination of Nondiscrimination Laws and Policies
Watch “Gay and Transgender Discrimination: Protecting Employee Rights

Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2011—the first since November 2009— and the Center for American Progress today released “The Freedom to Work, The Freedom to Worship,” with an accompanying video, on how ENDA advances workplace equality while protecting religious liberty. “A State-by-State Examination of Nondiscrimination Laws and Policies,” also released today by CAP, surveys differing laws and policies, legal remedies afforded to the gay and transgender community, and the number of discrimination complaints in each state where such information is available. The report shows that ENDA needs to be passed into law in order to finally prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in America. 

“Tomorrow’s Senate HELP Committee hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, is an important step toward securing equal workplace protections for gay and transgender workers,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. “Discrimination against gay and transgender people on the job is unfortunately the rule, not the exception, and establishing fair workplaces is a best practice of leading corporations both large and small. Congress should swiftly pass ENDA and send the bill to President Obama for his signature.”

In “The Freedom to Work, The Freedom to Worship,” religious freedom arguments against ENDA are debunked and the religious exemption included in this bill is examined in more detail, showing that it uses the same language as the nation’s major employment nondiscrimination law—Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—consistently upheld by the courts. The substantial exemption in Section 6 of ENDA allows broadly defined religious organizations to continue to take sexual orientation and gender identity into account when making employment decisions.

In this way, ENDA’s religious exemption is broader than other laws that provide exemptions to religious organizations with respect to employment and poses no threat to religious freedom. This is why the bill has garnered the support of dozens of faith-based communities and religious organizations. Rather than create confusion, ENDA helps advance workplace equality for gay and transgender people while also helping religious organizations avoid massive litigation costs and confusion that would manifest had ENDA not tied its exemption’s applicability to Title VII.

A State-by-State Examination of Nondiscrimination Laws and Policies” shows that while 32 states (including Washington, D.C.) have implemented at least one kind of workplace nondiscrimination law or administrative policy that protects gay and transgender workers from discrimination, not all of these laws are equally strong. If passed, ENDA’s protections would extend to all federal, state, and local government agencies; employment agencies; unions; and private employers with 15 or more employees.

Gay and transgender workers deserve a fair chance at earning an honest living that allows them to support themselves and their families. Filling in the patchwork and passing ENDA would bring uniformity and clarity to the legal employment landscape, help ensure that otherwise qualified employees are not fired based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and make it easier for businesses to comply with the law on this issue.

Read “The Freedom to Work, the Freedom to Worship
Read “A State-by-State Examination of Nondiscrimination Laws and Policies
Watch “Gay and Transgender Discrimination: Protecting Employee Rights

See also:

To speak with CAP experts on this topic, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or [email protected].

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