July 11, 2014
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, a number of key civil rights groups have withdrawn their support from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, saying its religious exemption is too broad, and they hope to move a stronger bill through Congress next year. The groups said the religious exemption included in the Senate passed bill (S. 815) could provide religiously-affiliated organizations "a blank check to engage in workplace discrimination" and might actually lessen existing workplace protections provided under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Withdrawal of the support is likely to complicate the executive order President Obama has promised to sign. It has been assumed that the order would closely track ENDA, thus including a religious exemption similar to the bill that passed the Senate. It now seems likely that the exemption would be more narrowly drawn, if it is included at all. According to the ACLU, the exemption in S. 815 is "unprecedented in federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination." However, even before the groups' announced opposition this week, momentum for ENDA in Congress had stalled. There are currently no plans to move the legislation in the House, where Speaker John A. Boehner (R-OH) has said the bill would increase frivolous lawsuits and cost American jobs.