New Report Connects Religious Exemptions from LGBT Equality to Historic Efforts to Deny Civil Rights

The Leadership Conference Education Fund will release its report, Striking a Balance: Advancing Civil and Human Rights While Preserving Religious Liberty, documenting how the religious arguments commonly used today against LGBT equality have been used to oppose the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and equality, racial integration, inter-racial marriage, immigration, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the right to collectively bargain. Striking a Balance also examines the current legal and political landscape in which religious exemptions are being used to deny civil and human rights, including LGBT equality.

“For as long as people have demanded freedom, dignity, and equality under the law, many arguments to deny these rights have been wrapped in a false flag of religious liberty,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “Religious liberty is a sacred American ideal, not a cynical strategy to oppose LGBT equality, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, inter-racial marriage, or the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

The recognition of marriage equality for same-sex couples has spurred a fresh wave of state and federal legislation to sanction discrimination by individuals and businesses as a matter of religious freedom. Striking a Balance puts these bills in historical context, noting that similar arguments were made to undermine the implementation of landmark civil rights cases like Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, and legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The report will be released today at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights LGBT Institute in Atlanta, Georgia with an event to include diverse national and Georgia community advocates representing African Americans, Latinos, women, the LGBT community, and people of faith.  More than half a dozen religious exemption bills have been filed in Georgia and these communities are standing together to oppose the use of religion as a justification to discriminate.