HRC Commends Bush Administration For Respecting State And Local Civil Rights Laws In Guidance On Faith-Based Initiative

The Human Rights Campaign commended the Bush administration
in December when it unveiled its guidance acknowledging state and local civil rights
laws for the president's faith-based initiative. This is a departure from
an earlier proposal from the Bush administration, H.R. 7, which would have
allowed faith-based organizations receiving federal money to discriminate
against the gay community in hiring and employment, regardless of local
non-discrimination laws.

"We are pleased that the administration has proactively acknowledged that
religious organizations receiving federal funds must comply with state and
local civil rights laws," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.
"We hope that the administration's position in these areas will be reflected
in any future legislative efforts to expand charitable choice programs."

Currently, 12 states, the District of Columbia, and 140 cities and counties
have civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination against workers in the
private sector in hiring based on sexual orientation.

HRC was also gratified to see that there was a blanket ban on discrimination
in providing community services by any organization receiving federal
funding through the charitable choice program.

"We remain concerned, however, with the administration's position that
religious organizations receiving federal funding can discriminate on the
basis of religion in hiring and employment practices," said Stachelberg.
"The Supreme Court has yet to rule on this issue and we hold the position
that no organization should be allowed to discriminate on any basis with
federal funds."

To date, HRC has not opposed religious exemptions for hiring laws, as long
as the groups and organizations are not using federal money. For example,
the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, federal legislation that would
protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in hiring, includes language
that is based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that exempts religious
organizations and permits them to favor members of their own religion.

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