Recent headlines about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) have been reminiscent of those from nearly seven years ago, when ENDA passed the House of Representatives. In the 110th Congress, then-Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the first trans-inclusive version of ENDA. However, after a preliminary vote proved the bill had no chance of passing, Rep. Frank stripped ENDA of its gender identity language and introduced a sexual orientation-only version of the bill, which passed the House of Representatives in November 2007.
This controversial decision divided the LGBT rights advocacy community. Some organizations withdrew support for the legislation, feeling that the exclusion of the transgender community significantly diminished the efficacy of the bill. Others, including the RAC, the Humans Rights Campaign, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, felt that piecemeal protection was better than no protection at all. We remained vocal, however, about our belief that protection only on the basis of sexual orientation was not enough. Judaism teaches love of humanity and respect for the divinity in all people. Guided by those ideals, the Reform Jewish Movement continues to maintain ardent support for legislation that advances civil and human rights.
Yet again, the LGBT rights advocacy community is split in the fight for ENDA. On July 8, a few prominent LGBT and civil rights organizations, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the ACLU, formally dropped their support for the bill in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case.
The court decided in the case that Hobby Lobby and other closely-held, secular for-profit corporations do not have to cover for their employees the contraceptive care to which they object on religious grounds. The LGBT advocacy organizations that have withdrawn their support of ENDA are concerned that this ruling could affect the interpretation of ENDA’s current religious exemption.
Regardless of the implications posed by the Hobby Lobby case, there is no denying that an inclusive, federal workplace non-discrimination law is long overdue. Since ENDA was introduced more than a year and a half ago, the RAC and its allies in the LGBT rights community have tirelessly fought for this essential piece of legislation, pushing passage in the Senate and securing a record number of bipartisan co-sponsors in the House. We cannot ignore the urgent need for a law, backed by bipartisan support, that would advance the rights of the LGBT community and ensure that tens of millions of LGBT people are protected in the workplace.