Religious groups appeal to President Obama for ENDA-like protections for any order affecting federal contractsOnline Only, Top Highlights, Around the Nation Thursday, June 26th, 2014
With any hope for legislative action on the Employer Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) all but quashed for the foreseeable future, President Obama has announced plans for an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for all federal contractors seeking bids from the U.S. Government. The action, which politically speaking is about all Obama can do at this point with a recalcitrant House and mid-term elections less than five months away, hopes to remind members of the LGBT community that despite his best efforts, politics is the art of the possible.
But religious organizations from all points along the spiritual continuum, including the American Family Association, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and he Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, have balked about what they see as a concerted effort by the president to ignore a wish list of exemptions that would make any order more palatable in the religious community, reports WorldMag.com.
We want it to be on record,” said Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the IRFA, which is circulating a petition that now has 140 co-signers. “We want to give him the opportunity to do the right thing.”
But pro-LGBT groups like the Human Rights Campaign’s Fred Sainz told the Christian Post religious liberty concerns are “premature” without seeing a draft of the order. But a wait-and-see approach is certainly not the stance LGBT activists are taking. Interfaith Alliance President C. Welton Gaddy looked forward to “working with the president” to ensure “religion should never be legitimated as a license to discriminate.” Despite soft-pedaling the issue to the Christian Post, Sainz made his group’s intent clear to LGBT newspaper The Washington Blade. “We believe that when taxpayer funds are being used, the federal government should prevent discrimination,” he said. “LGBT workers should be treated the same as other categories already protected by the existing executive order.”
Certain provisions are already in place that have rankled religious leaders. Disaster relief organization Catholic Relief Services, for example, had more than $230 million in U.S. government grants and contracts in 2013 and $350 million in 2011. The Department of Health and Human Services has already refused to contract with Catholic groups not willing to provide contraception or abortion counseling, Jesuit analyst Thomas Reese said.
Whether or not the president makes allowance for so-called religious exemptions remains to be seen. But given his temperament and his own religious set of beliefs, which he has kept very close to his chest, it is more likely than not that the LGBT community will win a series of concessions that will be satisfying at best and temporal at worst.
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