UPDATE: ENDA has reached cloture in the Senate and will come up for a final vote.
The Orwellian-named Employee Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, is set for a vote in the U.S. Senate Monday night. Thanks to the support of five Republican Senators, reports say the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster are in place. House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), however, released a statement making clear he opposes ENDA, which means it likely won’t get a vote in the House. This is good because according to The Washington Blade (a gay-friendly news outlet), Democrats are planning an ObamaCare-style bait-and-switch on an already weak ENDA exemption for religious institutions.
ENDA’s publicized goal sounds harmless enough: To give gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered Americans the same protections as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Instead of protecting employees based on race, gender, etc., this new law will protect based on sexual identity and orientation. But as is usually the case with the hard-left, this is less about tolerance and equality and more about oppressing the freedoms of others.
Some religious institutions are exempted from ENDA, but only religious institutions recognized by the federal government. Private businesses will not be exempted, which means that the personal religious beliefs of faith-based businesses, small business-owners, and anyone not recognized by the federal government, will not be protected. There is also language in the bill that is so vague, it can only be interpreted as a trial lawyer’s dream come true and a potential attack against religious expression:
For example, the language prohibiting actions that “adversely affect the status of the individual as an employee or as an applicant for employment” is unclear. The mere presence within the place of employment of religious paraphernalia associated with a faith that objects to homosexual or transgender behavior may be construed by an employee as an act that “adversely” affects that employee’s status. We believe the language leaves open the possibility that a person could claim their status has been adversely affected by the mere presence of a Bible on an employer’s desk. We are deeply concerned by the potential chilling effect this language will have on the ability of religious employers to conduct their personal lives and their businesses in accordance with their faith.
Another very real problem for those who believe in religious freedom and tolerance is that after the bill becomes law, The Washington Blade seems happy to report that Democrats are already plotting to strip away the exemptions for religious institutions.
Like ObamaCare, in order to get the bill passed, Democrats are promising “If you like your religious freedom, you can keep your religious freedom.” But that is nothing more than a phony sales pitch to win passage. Once it is law, the reality will be much different from the pitch:
That language would provide leeway for religious institutions, like churches or religious schools, to discriminate against LGBT workers in non-ministerial positions even if ENDA were to become law. It’s broader than similar exemptions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for categories of race, gender, religion and national origin.
“I mentioned to him that it was something that just was not palatable,” Washington said. “I asked him what he felt about it, and he felt that the main thing to do was get the vote taken care of, and then deal with it later. As often times happens, you don’t get something perfect the first time around, you go back and fix it later, so that was basically his take on it.”
That account was corroborated by Faiz Shakir, a Reid spokesperson, who said the Democratic leader understands the concerns, but wants to get the bill passed first, then go back and address the exemptions.
“Sen. Reid’s first priority is to pass the strongest possible legislation which can garner 60 votes,” Shakir said. “He believes the current legislation meets that test.”
Republican Senators supporting ENDA are Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).
Freedom of religion is protected in the very first Amendment to the Constitution.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC