On June 25th, The Human Rights Campaign condemned the
administration's renewed effort to make it easier for religious groups
using federal funding to discriminate and make employment decisions
based on religion. HRC welcomed, however, language within the policy
position that reaffirms the President's commitment to ensuring that
service providers receiving direct federal funds will not discriminate
on the basis of sexual orientation in providing services.
"Allowing a religious organization, using their own privately raised
funds, to hire whomever they want is one thing. But to allow any
institution or group receiving public money – tax dollars – to
discriminate against any American is simply wrong," said HRC Political
Director Winnie Stachelberg. "This country was founded by men and women
seeking freedom of religion. How can anyone now use religion as a
justification for federally funded discrimination?"
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, religious institutions are
permitted to favor members of their own religion when using their own
funds. In contrast, under this proposal, religious institutions
receiving federal grants for community service programs, like soup
kitchens –which are not religious in nature and that could be performed
by groups that do not discriminate — would still be able to
discriminate in hiring based on religion. Religious discrimination has
been used in the past as a proxy for discrimination based on sexual
The administration will urge courts to clarify how state and local laws
banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
would be treated. While the administration does not call for the
preemption of these laws, past legislative efforts have done so.
There is currently no federal law that prohibits employment
discrimination based on sexual orientation. Meaning, even if the
administration fails in its effort to permit federally funded
discrimination, any religious or secular group providing these services
that are based in states or cities without non-discrimination policies
that include sexual orientation could still discriminate in hiring
against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender applicants.
"It is counter productive and wrong to fight social injustices like
poverty and hunger by promoting another social injustice like
discrimination," said Stachelberg.
In the absence of a federal ban on employment discrimination based on
sexual orientation, a growing number of state, county, and local
governments are implementing local laws to fight discrimination. The
Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a federal bill that would prohibit
employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. ENDA is expected
to be introduced soon in this Congress and has traditionally enjoyed
strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
Some of this country's strongest international allies are currently
expanding laws to protect their gay and lesbian citizens. In contrast,
it is very disappointing to see this proposal that could actually cause
a net increase in discrimination against gay Americans," said
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