News (USA)

Polis files discharge petition on ENDA with narrowed religious exemption

Polis files discharge petition on ENDA with narrowed religious exemption

WASHINGTON — Four U.S. House Democrats, led by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), filed a discharge petition Wednesday seeking to force a vote on a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that contains a more narrowed religious exemption.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (R-Colo.)
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (R-Colo.) AP

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

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.

But 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.

Polis subsequently introduced a resolution before the House Rules Committee that would narrow ENDA’s religious exemption in the event the committee approved the bill for a vote on the House floor, according to the Washington Blade.

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It is that version of ENDA that would come up for a vote if the discharge petition is successful, although it remains to be seen how that version of ENDA would fare in the Senate, where a more expanded religious exemption was deemed necessary for passage.

The discharge petition would need the backing of 218 lawmakers to force consideration in the House.

The Hill reports that discharge petitions are rarely successful, and Polis’ petition is likely an attempt to highlight the issue ahead of the midterm elections.

Along with Polis, who is co-chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) signed the petition.

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