Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will hold a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) next Tuesday in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. NRB Senior Vice President and General Counsel Craig Parshall will testify at the Hearing, focusing on the inadequacy of the "religious exemption" built into the bill. NRB has long opposed and previously testified before Congress against ENDA (H.R. 1397/S.811), a controversial bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the chief sponsor of ENDA, as well as Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Susan Collins (R-ME) issued a letter last month encouraging the advancement of this bill. Shortly after receiving that letter, Chairman Harkin agreed to hold a hearing on June 12. He stated, “This upcoming HELP Committee hearing will provide an excellent opportunity to build on the Committee’s previous work and help advance our shared goal of equal rights for all Americans. I am hopeful that working together, we will reach a point where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons enjoy the same rights and protections, and full equality, as all our fellow Americans.”
In his 2009 testimony against the ENDA, NRB Senior VP and General Counsel Craig Parshall declared that ENDA “would impose a substantial, unconstitutional burden on religious organizations” and is an “assault on… historical notions of religious freedom.” This perennial bill remains a priority for the LGBT lobby, so Senate action in the 112th Congress is possible. However, its path through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would be far more difficult.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations