President Obama is slated to sign an executive order on Monday 21 July 2014 that would protect LGBT federal employees and employees of federally contracted companies from discrimination in hiring and firing. Many contracted companies already have such protections on the books as well as 21 states have protections for LGBT citizens in regards to employment and public accommodations.
In a Talking Points Memo dated 2 July, Dylan Scott wrote that almost immediately after the SCOTUS ruling regarding religious exemptions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in favor of Hobby Lobby and other privately owned businesses with a strong religious leaning in ownership many religiously owned institutions and businesses were petitioning the president for similar religious exemptions to his proposed executive order. Similar religious exemptions are written into the current draft of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that was recently passed by the Senate and sits before the GOP-controlled House this session. The religious exemptions in ENDA have caused many LGBT rights groups to drop drop their support. The Human Rights Campaign being one of the only groups to maintain their support.
With Obama signing this executive order only federal employees and the employees of federally contracted companies are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Outside of the 21 states that have such laws and those companies around the country that also protect their employees from such discrimination, people can still be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (or perceived sexual orientation/gender identity). In my state of Nebraska that means that only those who work for the federal government in some capacity will be protected in the hiring and firing process (as well as for consideration for promotion) and those who are lucky enough to work for a company that has similar protections (and residents of Omaha). Fortunately, I work for such a company. As indicated in my earlier pieces (see above links), I have been lucky enough to work for many such companies over the years. But not everyone is that lucky.
On Tuesday 8 July over 100 faith leaders in the United States sent a letter to Obama, along with a press release to several major media outlets, urging the President to not include religious exemptions in any executive order from his administration. One of those leaders, Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, included in the press release this statement, in part:
“As people of faith, we should be exemplary and not exempted. Jesus came to protect the most vulnerable. The faith community that taught me never to throw stones should not have special permission from the White House to throw stones. It is simply theologically indefensible.”
This letter arrived on Obama’s desk a week after a letter from a large number of faith leaders, many of them his own advisers, urging him to include such exemptions.
“An executive order that does not include a religious exemption will significantly and substantively hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped to serve in common purpose with the federal government. When the capacity of religious organizations is limited, the common good suffers.”
You can read the entire letter against exemptions, and the list of signatories, at Huffington Post.
QueerProud Monthly has been following a story that shows what kind of damage these religious exemptions can do. A transgender student at George Fox University in Oregon has been denied housing in the men’s dorm because the religiously owned institution doesn’t accept transgender as valid. Socially, medically, and legally Jayce M is a man. He was born a woman and that is the argument that GFU is using to bar him from single apartment dwelling in the men’s dorm. The Department of Education has upheld their decision to bar him, citing a religious exemption in the 1972 version of Title IX, the updated Title IX (from 2010 includes protections for LGBT students). The religious exemption from 1972 carried over to the 2010 version.
“This section shall not apply to an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization if the application of this subsection would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”
Religious exemptions don’t protect religious institutions, they harm people. The federal government should be working to protect everyone. Institutions of higher learning should be educating their students. Citizens of the United States won’t have equality, protection from discrimination, without the government and religious stepping up to the plate and protect, treat equal, everyone within the borders.
Phil is one of the hosts of L“As people of faith, we should be exemplary and not exempted,” Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, said in a press release sent to The Huffington Post. “Jesus came to protect the most vulnerable. The faith community that taught me never to throw stones should not have special permission from the White House to throw stones. It is simply theologically indefensible.”avender Hill on KZUM-Lincoln/KZUM-HD. KZUM is Nebraska’s first and only community radio station, Lavender Hill is Nebraska’s only LGBTQQIA news and talk program on radio. The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are not necessarily those of KZUM, it’s board of directors, underwriters, or staff. Nor are they necessarily those of Corwin, Phil’s cohost on Lavender Hill. Lavender Hill can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. The show airs live every Sunday at 11am Central. Email the hosts with questions, comments, or suggestions for the show at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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