July 10, 2014 — Several gay-rights groups have dropped support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S 815) in its current form, citing concerns that the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby could lead employers to claim religious exemptions from the bill, the Washington Post reports (O'Keefe, Washington Post, 7/8).
In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).
ENDA aims to bolster workplace protections against discrimination for gay, lesbian and transgender workers. The gay-rights groups said on Tuesday that they could no longer back ENDA in its current form because it includes what they described as an overly broad religious exemption.
Some groups that support gay rights, including the Human Rights Campaign, are still supporting ENDA, the Post reports.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said, "If a private company can take its own religious beliefs and say you can't have access to certain health care, it's a hop, skip and a jump to an interpretation that a private company could have religious beliefs that LGBT people are not equal or somehow go against their beliefs and therefore fire them."
Other groups that withdrew their support for ENDA include American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (Washington Post, 7/8).
In a joint statement, those groups said, "Because opponents of LGBT equality are already misreading [the Hobby Lobby] decision as having broadly endorsed rights to discriminate against others, we cannot accept a bill that sanctions discrimination and declares that discrimination against LGBT people is more acceptable than other kinds of discrimination (ACLU et al. statement, 7/8).