A week after a devastating shooting targeted the LGBT community and a day after Senate Republicans blocked gun control measures, one Republican congressman claimed to have a new plan to protect LGBT people from discrimination. Based on what he’s said about it so far, it will likely have little to no buy-in from the LGBT movement.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) told BuzzFeed Tuesday that he plans to introduce a bill next month that would ban some forms of discrimination against LGBT people, but with exemptions to allow some discrimination by religious groups. He believes such a bill would actually have a chance of advancing because it would be sponsored by a Republican and because its “religious liberty protections should also give Republicans more comfort.”
Because a draft of the bill has not yet been released, Dent’s vague comments about what it will contain provide the only clues as to just how limited it will be compared to the Democrats’ sweeping Equality Act — which has been stalled by Republicans since last year.
He seemed to suggest he was interested in allowing religious organizations to make hiring decisions based on their faith, like how Catholic organizations can only hire Catholics. “I’d be hesitant to expand that to the private sector,” he said, though he did not clarify exactly how we was contemplating classifying organizations. “That is something we would have to work out.”
It also might not apply to public accommodations at all, meaning it would do nothing to protect LGBT people from discrimination in restaurants, stores, or other venues. “I’m not saying public accommodation is on or off the table, just saying that it’s a little more challenging,” he told BuzzFeed. “It’s so politicized now.”
House Descends Into Chaos As Republicans Whip Up Votes For LGBT DiscriminationPolitics by CREDIT: Screenshot A chaotic scene unfolded on the floor of the U.S. House on Thursday as a measure to…thinkprogress.orgIn contrast, the Equality Act would provide protections in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and even juries. It also contains no special privileges for religious organizations to justify their discrimination.
Back in 2014, LGBT groups dropped any remaining support they had for LGBT legislation that contained religious exemptions. Specifically, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which only provided protections in employment, had accumulated increasingly broad exemptions during the two decades it languished in Congress. After the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision expanded the way “religious liberty” could be used to justify discrimination by employers, LGBT groups abandoned the Frankenstein bill that ENDA had become and rallied behind what would become the Equality Act.
Even a year ago when the Equality Act was first introduced, Dent was suggesting such a compromise bill. At the time, his spokesperson did not yet have a date for introduction. Apparently a year later, just after the LGBT community was targeted with mass violence, is the perfect time for a bill that protects against discrimination — except by the very groups inclined to discriminate.