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ENDA bill in the house (2009)

Testimony by representatives
of outside religious & secular groups

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If signed into law, the bill would make it illegal for employers to hire, refuse to hire, fire, demote or refuse to promote an individual based on his or her real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

GLBT is an acronym for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

Rabbi Saperstein's testimony:

Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said:

"Our belief in ENDA?s importance stems from a core teaching shared by an array of faith traditions, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. In the words of Genesis, (1:27), 'And God created humans in God?s own image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them.' We oppose discrimination against all individuals, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender men and women, for the stamp of the Divine is imprinted on the souls of each and every one of us. ...

"We also believe this legislation to be a wise and measured civil rights bill that addresses the scourge of employment discrimination and upholds the values on which our nation was founded, equality and justice chief among them. Indeed, the struggle for equality is a defining narrative of our nation. From the abolition movement, to the suffrage movement to the civil rights movement to the gay rights movement, women and minorities in this nation have worked tirelessly to achieve equal rights as guaranteed them in the founding visions of the United States. It is this vision too that compels us to support ENDA."

He believes that the special exemption -- written in the bill to allow religious organizations to continue to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity -- to be important. He testified:

"This legislation is not an endorsement of any particular religious viewpoint and it does not interfere with religious beliefs about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. ENDA simply ensures that workers are judged and rewarded based on their qualifications and performance, rather than on irrelevant and prejudicial factors. At the same time, it protects the right of religious communities to make their own employment decisions in this sensitive area."

He feels that the U.S. is:

"... long past the point when our laws should permit discrimination against any individual because of their sexual orientation. Just as we do not tolerate behavior that discriminates based on race, gender, national origin or religion, so should we be clear about discrimination based on the characteristic of being gay or lesbian. ? It is time for our laws to reflect these values and allow members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community to live their professional lives without fear of discrimination or the pressure to hide their true identity." 3,4

Testimony by a fired transgender employee:

Vandy Beth Glenn is transgender and was previously employed as an aid at the Georgia General Assembly in 2007. She told her supervisor that she was transitioning from male to female. On 2007-OCT-16, Sewell Brumby, legislative counsel to the General Assembly and head of her office, asked to speak with her. Glenn said:

"Mr. Brumby told me that people would think I was immoral. He told me I'd make other people uncomfortable, just by being myself. He told me that my transition was unacceptable. And, over and over, he told me it was inappropriate."

She was fired on the spot, escorted to her desk, told to clean it out of any personal items, and marched out of the building.

She testified:

"The only thing that changed was my gender ? and because of that, the legislature I'd worked so hard for no longer had any use for my skills. I was devastated."

With the help of Lambda Legal, she launched a federal lawsuit during 2008-JUL -- Glenn v. Brumby -- against the Georgia General Assembly. She is not seeking monetary damages. She merely wants her job back. With no federal ENDA law in place, she may have a difficult time obtaining a ruling in her favor. 5

YouTube has a video available of her testimony:

You Tube also has eight other videos containing ENDA testimony. See the thumbnail images above after playing this video.

Testimony by Craig Parshall of the NRB:

Craig Parshall is the Senior Vice-President and General Counsel for the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). Its membership is actually a group of Christian TV, radio and Internet broadcasters, schools and colleges; non-Christian media are excluded. All, or the vast majority, of their membership are composed of fundamentalist or other evangelical faith groups.

The NRB feels that the ENDA bill:

"... would impose a substantial and crippling burden on religious organizations, both those who are non-profit groups, as well as faith-based institutions and enterprises which operate commercially. ..."

"H.R. 3017 prohibits employment discrimination regarding the 'actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity' of any person. Sec. 6 purports to provide an exemption for 'a corporation, association, educational institution, or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provisions of title VII of the Civil Rights Act."

However, he feels that the religious "discrimination provisions" are ambiguous and might not protect the freedom of faith groups to discriminate against GLBT persons.

He notes that federal law does not define precisely what constitutes a religious organization. So some faith groups might be considered secular in nature and forced to stop discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He cited court cases where:

bulletA Jewish community center was ruled to be a religious organization.
bulletA Christian charity that alleviates poverty worldwide was considered a religious organization.
bulletA Methodist orphan's home was ruled to be not a religious organization.
bulletThe Christian Science Monitor, which covers primarily secular news, was ruled to be a religious organization.
bulletA private Protestant religious school in Hawaii was denied a religious exemption.

Within the NRB are about 200 Christian radio stations"...  that are commercial in their organizational structure." The FCC regulations allow religious broadcasters to discrimination in employment on the basis of religion, but not on race or gender. It is not clear whether the ENDA bill would supersede these regulations. Thus, they stations may be denied the opportunity to continue discriminating against LGBT employees or potential employees.

Parshall concludes:

"Neither the Congress nor the courts have jurisdiction over the religious beliefs of people of faith. Holding the faithful in contempt because they advance unpopular religious doctrines itself evidences a form of cultural discrimination. Christian ministries that 6 object to those sexual preferences which are in clear violation of the standards of the Bible are standing on a long and well-worn road. Those doctrines are proscribed in both the Old and New Testaments and have endured for several thousand years.

The rights to preach and practice those beliefs spring from a Bill of Rights that is two hundred and twenty years old, and in turn which reach back to hundreds of years of English common law. Against all of that comes H.R. 3017 and similar measures, which can claim to have newly-minted a set of sexual orientation and gender-identity privileges which, at most, are just a few decades old in their very recent cultural currency.

We urge this Committee not to jettison the paramount rights of people of faith. If that happens here, it means that we have set ourselves on a very dangerous path, a radical departure from those basic liberties for which our Founders risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. 6

With one exception, he uses the term "sexual preference" in place of "sexual orientation" as is used in the ENDA bill and by all other persons who testified. This is a common expression used by religious and social conservatives. It implies that lesbians and gays are, in reality, all bisexual. Thus they are attracted to both men and women, and merely prefer to have a relationship with a same-sex person. This belief is essentially unique to religious and social conservatives and is not shared by the LGBT movement, religious liberals, or professional mental health associations.

Testimony by Brad Sears of the Williams Institute:

Brad Sears is executive director of the Williams Institute. This group specializes in sexual orientation law at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He testified that his group's research reveals that discrimination is frequently experienced by LGBT persons. He said:

"We find no difference between the patterns of employment discrimination against LGBT people in the public sector and in the private sector, and no difference in the patterns of such discrimination against LGBT workers in state versus local government agencies."

Citing results from his group's meta-study of 80 surveys, he discussed a:

bulletSurvey showing that one in five GLBT people working in the public sector reported having been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.
bulletSurvey of more than 1,900 LGBT employees in state university systems across the country. 13% reported having discriminatory treatment or harassment in the previous year.

He cited previous surveys showing that GLBT persons employed in the private sector are paid from 8 to 23% less than others for the same work. They found that in the public sector, GLBT persons were underpaid by 8 to 29%.

Negative comment by committee member:

Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the committee's senior GOP member said that many of the issues raised in the 2007 version of ENDA had not been resolved. Apparently referring to protection of all Americans on the basis of their perceived gender identity, he said:

"H.R. 3017 represents a significant departure from longstanding civil rights law. It creates an entirely new protected class that is vaguely defined and often subjective."

He was also concerned about protecting people on the basis of their "perceived" sexual orientation. He said:

"Attempting to legislate individual perceptions is truly uncharted territory, and it does not take a legal scholar to recognize that such vaguely defined protections will lead to an explosion in litigation and inconsistent judicial decisions."

Barney Frank responded by noting that many states had enacted similar workplace protection laws, without a backlog of legal challenges against employers. He said:

"The opponents of discrimination predict disruption and it never happens. The secret about anti-discrimination legislation is that it becomes very hard to enforce. They have historically been under-enforced rather than over-enforced."

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issues statement:

The ADL issued the following statement on the ENDA bill:

"We welcome these committee hearings on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  In 2009, it is unacceptable that, in more than half the states, it is not illegal to fire someone simply because of that person?s sexual orientation or gender identity.  Support for ENDA sends an important message to all Americans that this form of discrimination will not be tolerated in the workplace."

"Opinion polls demonstrate that the American people support equal treatment in the workplace, and the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies have policies protecting gay employees from discrimination."

"We strongly believe that employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promotion and compensation should be based on merit, performance and ability ? and never on the basis of an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity." 4

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Text of "H.R. 3017: Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009," GovTrack at: http://www.govtrack.us/ It is also available at http://www.gpo.gov/
  2. Lou Chibbaro, Jr., "Another shot for ENDA: Frank says trans-inclusive bill 'on track' to pass this year," The Washington Blade, 2009-JUN-24, at: http://www.washblade.com/
  3. "Saperstein Testifies in Support of Employment Non-Discrimination Act," Text of speech by Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://rac.org/
  4. Eric Fingerhut, "Saperstein testifies for ENDA," Capital J, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://blogs.jta.org/
  5. Chris Johnson, "House hears ENDA testimony. Frank, Baldwin push for trans-inclusive bill at hearing," Washington Blade, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://www.sovo.com/
  6. "Written Testimony of Craig L. Parshall Senior Vice-President and General Counsel National Religious Broadcasters," Committee on Education and Labor, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://edlabor.house.gov/ This is a PDF file.

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Home > "Hot" conflicts > Homosexuality > Employment > here

Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2009-AUG-07
Latest update: 2009-SEP-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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