GOP-controlled House panel rejects bid to attach ENDA to defense bill


WASHINGTON — A U.S. House panel on Wednesday rejected an attempt to pass a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) as part of the annual defense authorization bill.

US-Capitol-LGBTThe Washington Blade reports that the amendment was introduced in the House Rules Committee by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) on behalf of openly gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the chief sponsor of ENDA.

The Republican dominated panel rejected the amendment 7-3 without discussion by a party-line vote.

ENDA was approved in the U.S. Senate in November 2103, but House Republicans have refused to consider the bill, in part because they believe its current religious exemptions aren’t broad enough.

The measure would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In July, six of the nation’s leading LGBT rights advocacy groups announced they were withdrawing their support for the Senate version of ENDA, fearing that broad religious exemptions could compel private companies to cite objections similar to those that prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case brought by Hobby Lobby.

In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court said family-owned businesses do not have to offer their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the owners’ religious beliefs.

The ruling has since led to an increase in calls for greater permission to discriminate against LGBT Americans on the basis of religious liberty.

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The version of ENDA which Polis sought to attach to the defense authorization bill on Wednesday contained a more narrowed religious exemption than the version passed by the Senate.

Polis is a member of the Rules Committee, but was absent when the amendment came up for a vote on Wednesday, as was Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), one of eight House Republican co-sponsors of ENDA and a House Rules Committee member.

Earlier Wednesday, the Labor Department issued a rule to protect federal workers and employees of federal contractors from workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The rule implements an Executive Order signed by President Barack Obama on July 21.

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