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Attempts to “Turn Away the Gays” Prove Why We Need ENDA

Attempts to “Turn Away the Gays” Prove Why We Need ENDA

While Governor Jan Brewer may have vetoed Arizona’s infamous “Turn Away the Gays” bill, other states are flirting with similarly discriminatory legislation. This serves to show exactly why we need a federal LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination bill like ENDA.

Missouri is the latest state to see the introduction of legislation that would make it lawful to deny employment, goods and services to LGBT people on the basis of religious belief. The Missouri legislation was introduced by Sen. Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau who contends the legislation is necessary to protect religious freedom in Missouri. He cites the florist shop that was the subject of an ongoing Washington lawsuit, and cases like it, as proof that religious rights are being trampled.

However, presumably wanting to shield himself from criticism, Wallingford is on record as saying he supports possibly widening Missouri’s Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation protections, implying that his bill wouldn’t infringe on any of those rights. It’s all about the religious, he contends.

Accepting Wallingford at his word and assuming that he isn’t trying to directly undermine LGBT civil rights in Missouri, we’re still left with a problem. The legislation essentially elevates religious belief above other protected classes. It makes this “special class” just that bit more special, and that’s where the problem firmly sits.

The legislation could also be used, for instance, to undermine the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that businesses could cite their religious beliefs as a reason why they don’t wish to comply, for instance, with the contraception mandate. However, while there are a number of inequalities women still face across a number of sectors, they do have gender and sex discrimination protections at the federal level, meaning that no matter what antagonistic states do, there is federal law to fall back on in order to find a quick remedy to any such discrimination.

Currently there is no such federal enumeration for LGBT people, meaning that this “religious right” to turn away LGBTs could be used to deny them all kinds of things, like employment. While Wallingford saying he would be happy to support amending the Human Rights Act to ensure that gay people are protected is all well and good, the Republican controlled state remains hostile to any such move, and the gesture, while apparently well meaning, is largely hollow.

As such, the looming threat of the Turn Away the Gays bills across the U.S. only serves to further emphasize why an LGBT inclusive federal Employment Non Discrimination Act is so necessary.

While it is true that ENDA wouldn’t technically hit “Turn Away the Gays” legislation head-on, ENDA would create a much needed federal standard that would make it clear to states that federal law protects LGBTs. It could prevent this kind of legislation ever getting out of committee because any such bills would be so obviously flawed, and certainly would provide a quick solution to any lawsuits surrounding the so called right to discriminate.

Earlier this session ENDA of course passed out of the Senate for the first time in years, but now has floundered in the House. Despite the fact that the bill has bipartisan support and it is widely believed that with some work there would be a strong showing of Republican backers, House Speaker John Boehner has refused to bring the legislation for a vote. He is quoted as saying he believes the legislation is unnecessary because LGBTs are already protected, and he doesn’t support enumerating certain classes of individuals.

Well, here you are Speaker Boehner. Here is a cognizable threat to the civil and employment rights of LGBTs that you cannot ignore. The Turn Away the Gays legislation is an attempt to enshrine religious privilege for the exact purpose of discriminating freely and widely, and for the LGBT community there is currently little federal legislation to fall back on in order to fight this kind of attack.

What more evidence does Boehner need that this kind of discrimination against LGBTs is alive and unrolling right now in conservative states? Or, must he admit then that his denial of basic employment protections was never about evidence at all and instead about kowtowing to the religious extremist wing of the GOP which is systematically working to strip the civil rights of minorities throughout the U.S. and is being enabled by extremists in Congress and Boehner’s own permissive attitude?

One way he can fight back is to bring ENDA to the floor. It’s not controversial, it does have America’s support and it would help send a signal that this kind of regressive Turn Away the Gays legislation should never see the light of day.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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75 comments

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9:07PM PDT on Mar 9, 2014

This is so wrong to discriminate against gay people just due to them being gay.

Just imagine what this may lead too.. two gay people who are holding hands at a restaurant table being kicked out, a gay in a country town where everyone knows everyone..being refused to be allowed to buy condoms at a chemist cause he's gay, a gay man with sexual dysfunction in a town where everyone knows he is gay ..his doctor could refuse to help him citing religious belief.

Wide discrimination based on religious beliefs shouldnt be allowed to occur. These people ARE still people!

12:15PM PST on Mar 8, 2014

If I adopt a religion that dictates that the races not mix, can I hang a "Whites Only" sign on my shop door and legally refuse to serve non-Caucasian customers?

If I adopt a religion that teaches that gingers are servants of evil and forbids me to have any contact with them, can I legally tell any redhead who walks into my place of business, "Begone! Return to your evil master and defile this place no more!" while squirting them with holy Kool-aid from a water cannon?

9:57AM PST on Mar 7, 2014

.......

10:10PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Thank you

6:49PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

holly m.
I don't know if I am misinterpreting your intentions with your Boom Bye Bye post or not. I would hope so, because the way it reads is hateful, and about as non christian as a christian can be, From your post I see you belong to a persecuted christians group. That could have something to do with it.

6:30PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Apparently many Americans still believe that some are created equaler than others, and none are as equal as they.

5:25PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Make a new country and name it boom bye bye.make buju banton the president!

4:35PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

@sharyn, while I see the point you are trying to make (despite your post being truncated), there is a difference between the examples you gave and businesses/employers rejecting people simply because they are gay. In your examples, you are citing behaviors rather than physical traits. Being gay is not a behavior, it cannot be switched on and off, and it doesn't present in one specific way or through choice. A restaurant patron can, for example, CHOOSE to dress in formal attire, to behave politely, to avoid PDAs, and to leave disruptive children with a sitter if they wish to dine at a certain establishment with a dress code and/or certain rules. The same patron cannot choose to not be gay. Just the same as he/she can't choose his skin or eye color or the timbre of his/her voice. Would you say an establishment should be allowed to turn away patrons because they have large ears or freckles? In the same vein, turning away someone because they are gay (not because of a behavior, such as lewdness or PDA, but simply for being gay) IS discrimination, whereas your examples are not.

4:20PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

I personally have nothing against LGBT folks or religious folks. I don't think anyone should be discriminated against because it's wrong (unless their a certain type of criminal who could cause some harm(especially physical) to you and/or others) and opens the door for any and everybody to be discriminated against. But in saying this when does a private business especially a small business have the right to refuse service and/or goods whether it's religious or not. And I'm all for religious freedom as long as they're not physically, mentally and/or emotionally harming/hurting anyone(especially minors and females because they're the most vulnerable in the 'Patriarchal' religions; and I don't mean someone's hurt feelings because hurt feelings happen often whether it's intentional or unintentional. Many restaurants have dress codes, places of business 'say no shirtless or shoeless' folks allowed on premises some say no school age minors allowed without an adult during school hours, some say no hoodies, dark glasses allowed. Some are even banning babies, toddlers, young children because parents don't and won't control them. Me I don't like PDA in restaurants, people talking on cell phones in restaurants, kids annoying other customers, intoxicated patrons behaving badly and more and more restaurants and places are excluding these people. Is that discrimination? Personally I wouldn't want to have anyone make something edible for me if I were LGBT and they didn't want to, and/or an

2:48PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Any state that allows for the exclusion or any race or sex etc, should lose all federal monies and be boycotted to the fullest

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