LA Governor Signs Non-discrimination Executive Order; Rescinds Marriage and Conscience Executive Order
Today, Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order providing employment protections for state employees and employees of state contractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability, or age. This executive order also prohibits discrimination in services provided by state agencies, and recognizes an exemption for churches and religious organizations.
Similar executive orders were signed by former Governors Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Blanco and are in place around the country. There is currently no state law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) Louisianans from employment discrimination.
“We are fortunate enough to live in a state that is rich with diversity, and we are built on a foundation of unity and fairness for all of our citizens,” said Gov. Edwards. “We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements. I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state. Our goal is to promote the opportunities we have right here in Louisiana. While this executive order respects the religious beliefs of our people, it also signals to the rest of the country that discrimination is not a Louisiana value, but rather, that Louisiana is a state that is respectful and inclusive of everyone around us.”
“GNO, Inc. commends Governor John Bel Edwards for his executive order barring discrimination in Louisiana,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “The perception of Louisiana’s reputation has gone from worst to first in recent years, and this action will help to solidify Louisiana’s current reputation as a welcoming place for business and talent.”
In an effort to cultivate competitive, business-friendly economies, Shreveport and New Orleans have passed municipal ordinances that provide similar protections.
“The Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce has supported nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers at both the state level and locally for years, and we congratulate Gov. Edwards on making it official that state workers and employees of state contractors will not be discriminated against,” said Rev. Lindy Broderick, Executive Vice President, Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce. “A welcoming and fair workplace is not only the right thing to do, but is good for business. Companies, cities, and states seeking to attract top talent and build a competitive workforce make it clear they do not discriminate.”
Gov. Edwards stood with the business community and LGBT citizens in opposition to former Governor Bobby Jindal’s executive order extending provisions included in Mike Johnson’s Marriage and Conscience Act rejected by the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure during last year’s regular legislative session. Many in the legislature and the business community felt Governor Jindal’s executive order was not only unnecessary, but bad for business, tourism, and the Louisiana economy.
“The previous administration’s executive I am rescinding was meant to serve a narrow political agenda, “said Gov. Edwards. “It does nothing but divide our state and forced the business community, from Louisiana’s smallest businesses to large corporations, like IBM, to strongly oppose it. This executive order threatens Louisiana’s business growth, and it goes against everything we stand for– unity, acceptance, and opportunity for all.”
Louisiana passed the strongest religious liberty protections in the country in 2010, the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which Gov. Edwards supported. This executive order does not conflict with this law.
“Businesses like Moonbot must do everything we can to attract top creative talent to Louisiana. The Marriage and Conscience Order sanctions unfair discrimination and prevents growth in Louisiana’s creative economy,” said Lampton Enochs, CEO of Oscar winning, Louisiana-based Moonbot Studios. “I applaud the decision to rescind this executive order and fully support the executive order extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT government employees and contractors. This is a step in the right direction and supports Moonbot’s mission to recruit the best talent in the country – no matter the candidate’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Late Saturday, the Maryland legislature passed a historic bill that, if signed by Gov. Hogan, will make Maryland a national leader in closing the gender pay gap. The governor now has three weeks to sign the bill to make it law.
“Maryland made history on Saturday. With the Governor’s signature, Maryland will become a national leader in the fight to close the gender pay gap,” said Charly Carter, executive director of Maryland Working Families. “This is a huge victory for women, for transgender equality, and for working families across the state.
“Nearly 40 percent of households have a female breadwinner, and those families simply can’t afford to be making less. We believe in this bill because it tackles the two biggest impediments to equal pay for equal work: pay secrecy and the tracking of people based on gender into jobs with less responsibility and lower wages.
“We urge Gov. Hogan to not stand in the way of history, and sign this bill. Working families need pay equality, and we need it now.”
Facts on Maryland’s historic proposed Equal Pay law:
This bill tackles the root of the pay gap — it expands transparency, allows employees to talk about their wages with one another, and eliminates the so-called ‘mommy track’ that sidetracks many women from success in the workplace.
It allows Marylanders to get justice in two ways: through lawsuit, or by filing complaints with the state’s labor commissioner.
The bill covers anyone discriminated against on the basis of gender, including women and transgender Maryland residents.
It makes Maryland the national leader on gender pay equality protections.
New Federal Housing Policy Aims to Eliminate Discrimination Against LGBTQ People with a Criminal Record
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a new federal policy that aims to eliminate housing discrimination against people with a criminal history, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people with a criminal record. The new policy clarifies that using criminal history to justify a negative housing decision, such as the refusal to rent to or renew a lease for someone, or the refusal to sell to or to give someone a mortgage on a new home, may violate the Fair Housing Act (1968).
The MIssissippi Senate passed the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” late Wednesday on a 32-17 vote.
House Bill 1523 would allow clerks to deny same-sex marriage licenses to gay couples because of their religious beliefs and not face any repercussions. It would also allow private businesses and faith-based organizations to refuse services based on those same beliefs without retribution.
Sen. Jenifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, presented the bill to the Senate. Debate bill lasted over two hours.
“This is presenting a solution to the crossroads we find ourselves in today as a result of Obergefell v. Hodges,” Branning said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriages. “Ministers, florists, photographers, people along those lines — this bill would allow them to refuse to provide marriage-related business services without fear of government discrimination.”
Opponents of the bill say the bill could allow discrimination of those in the LGBT community and possibly single mothers, but Branning said the bill deals only with same-sex marriage.
The bill states that marriage should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; male (man) or female (woman) refers to an individual’s sex at time of birth.
Branning said the bill would require circuit clerks to have someone on staff to provide same-sex marriage licenses without any delay, but some interpret the language of the bill a different way.
The bill states that the clerk recusing him or herself “shall take all necessary steps to ensure that the authorization and licensing of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal.”
Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, asked whether Branning could see how this could be construed as allowing discrimination, which he has experienced as an African-American.
“Can’t you see how some might look at this legislation as being discriminatory?” he asked. “ … This measure we have before us runs the risk of sending the wrong message not to us … but to the greater Mississippi and the larger world.”
Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, pointed out that the Senate is “debating matters that don’t exist.”
“There are no state laws prohibiting discrimination by private actors. There’s no state law right now that prohibits anybody concerned from putting up a sign (at their business) that says ‘whites only.’ It violates federal law, but not state law,” Bryan said.
LGBT rights groups spoke out against the bill ahead of the Senate’s debate.
“This legislation moves Mississippi backward, undermining equality for its residents and jeopardizing its ability to attract and retain fair-minded businesses,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “Governor Bryant should be paying close attention to the backlash against discrimination in Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a terrible anti-LGBT bill, and in North Carolina, where fair-minded people and the broader business community are calling on state leaders to repudiate and repeal the discriminatory law passed last week.”
Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia earlier this week vetoed a bill that would have enabled faith-based organizations to deny services and jobs to LGBT people.
“Religious arguments have also been used in our nation to oppose women’s suffrage, interracial marriage, the acceptance of Asian immigrants, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the abolition of slavery,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a press release.
The bill will now head back to the House to approve an amendment.
More than 80 leading CEOs and business leaders calling on Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the radical provisions in the deeply discriminatory House Bill 2 that was rammed through the legislature last week.
The letter — signed by dozens of CEOs from across the nation — comes only a day after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced he would veto anti-LGBT legislation in Georgia after facing a sustained outcry from a broad chorus of advocates and companies. On Thursday morning, HRC President Chad Griffin and Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro will deliver the letter personally to Gov. McCrory’s office. Griffin and Sgro have also requested a meeting with the governor on Thursday in order to discuss the very real impact this new law will have on LGBT North Carolinians. A copy of the letter and its signatories can be found below.
“Discrimination is bad for North Carolina, bad for America, and bad for business,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “These business leaders are speaking out because they know this attack on lesbian, gay, bisexual and especially transgender North Carolinians isn’t just morally wrong — it also puts their employees, customers and North Carolina’s economy at risk. For the sake of all North Carolinians, Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly must act now to repeal this heinous attack on fairness and equality.”
“North Carolina’s place as a business leader in the South is based on fairness, inclusion, and diversity,” said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro. “HB 2 does not represent North Carolina values, and it weakens our competitive edge. We are glad to see our business community in the Old North State standing up against discriminatory measures like this. Gov. McCrory made a mess of our state last week, and our businesses are leading the charge to repair our state to a place of fairness.”
H.B. 2 has eliminated existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future. The legislation also forces transgender students in public schools to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity, putting 4.5 billion dollars in federal funding under Title IX at risk. It also compels the same type of discrimination against transgender people to take place in state buildings, including in public universities. Lawmakers passed the legislation in a hurried, single-day session last Wednesday, and Gov. McCrory quickly signed it into law in the dead of night.
North Carolina has the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first state in the country to enact a law attacking transgender students, even after similar proposals were rejected across the country this year — including a high-profile veto by the Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota. North Carolina school districts that comply with the law will now be in direct violation of Title IX, subjecting the school districts to massive liability and putting an estimated $4.5 billion of federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as funding received by schools from other federal agencies, at risk. This section of House Bill 2 offers costly supposed solutions to non-existent problems, and it forces schools to choose between complying with federal law — plus doing the right thing for their students — or complying with a state law that violates students’ civil rights. Read more about how this bill puts federal funding at risk here.
The state becomes the third in the nation to prohibit cities from passing non-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people.
The full letter to Gov. McCrory and list of signatories is below:
Dear Governor McCrory,
We write with concerns about legislation you signed into law last week, HB 2, which has overturned protections for LGBT people and sanctioned discrimination across North Carolina. Put simply, HB 2 is not a bill that reflects the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians.
We are disappointed in your decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law. The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development. We believe that HB 2 will make it far more challenging for businesses across the state to recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the nation. It will also diminish the state’s draw as a destination for tourism, new businesses, and economic activity.
Discrimination is wrong and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.
Karen Appleton, Senior Vice President, Box
Brandee Barker, Cofounder, The Pramana Collective
Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce
Chip Bergh, President and CEO, Levi Strauss & Co.
Michael Birch, Founder, Blab
Ed Black, President and CEO, Computer & Communications Industry Association
Nathan Blecharczyk, Cofounder and CTO, Airbnb
Steven R. Boal, CEO, Quotient Technology Inc.
Lorna Borenstein, CEO, Grokker
Brad Brinegar, Chairman and CEO, McKinney
Lloyd Carney, CEO, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc.
Brian Chesky, CEO, Airbnb
Ron Conway, Founder and Co-Managing Partner, SV Angel
Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
Dean Debnam, Chairman and CEO, Workplace Options
Jack Dorsey, CEO, Square and Twitter
David Ebersman, Cofounder and CEO, Lyra Health
Jared Fliesler, General Partner, Matrix Partners
Joe Gebbia, Cofounder and Chief Product Officer, Airbnb
Jason Goldberg, CEO, Pepo
Alan King, President and COO, Workplace Options
Kristen Koh Goldstein, CEO, BackOps
Mitchell Gold, co-founder and chair-man, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
John H. Graham IV, President and CEO, American Society of Association Executives
Logan Green, CEO, Lyft
Paul Graham, Founder, Y Combinator
David Hassell, CEO, 15Five
Charles H. Hill III, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Human Resources, Pfizer Inc.
Reid Hoffman, Chairman, LinkedIn
Robert Hohman, Cofounder & CEO, Glassdoor
Drew Houston, CEO, Dropbox
Chad Hurley, Cofounder, YouTube
Dave Imre, Partner and CEO, IMRE
Dev Ittycheria, President & CEO, MongoDB
Laurene Powell Jobs, President, Emerson Collective
Cecily Joseph, VP Corporate Responsibility and Chief Diversity Officer, Symantec Corporation
David Karp, Founder and CEO, Tumblr
Travis Katz, Founder and CEO, Gogobot
Brian Krzanich, CEO, Intel
Joshua Kushner, Managing Partner, Thrive Capital
Max Levchin, CEO, Affirm
Dion Lim, CEO, NextLesson
Shan-lyn Ma, CEO, Zola
Marissa Mayer, President and CEO, Yahoo
Melody McCloskey, CEO, StyleSeat
Douglas Merrill, CEO, Zestfinance
Dyke Messinger, President and CEO, Power Curbers Inc.
Hari Nair, Vice President and General Manager, Orbitz.com & CheapTickets.com
Michael Natenshon, CEO, Marine Layer
Alexi G. Nazem, Cofounder and CEO, Nomad Health
Laurie J. Olson, EVP, Strategy, Portfolio and Commercial Operations, Pfizer Inc.
Bob Page, Founder and CEO, Replacements, Ltd.
Michelle Peluso, Strategic Advisor and former CEO, Gilt
Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google
Mark Pincus, Founder and Executive Chairman, Zynga
Hosain Rahman, CEO, Jawbone
Bill Ready, CEO, Braintree
Evan Reece, CEO, Liftopia
Stan Reiss, General Partner, Matrix Partners
John Replogle, CEO, Seventh Generation
Virginia M. Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO, IBM Corporation
Dan Rosensweig, CEO, Chegg
Kevin P. Ryan, Founder and Chairman, Alleycorp
Bijan Sabet, General Partner, Spark Capital
Julie Samuels, President, Engine
George A. Scangos, PhD, CEO, Biogen
Dan Schulman, President and CEO, PayPal
Adam Shankman, Director and Producer
Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association
David A. Shaywitz, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer, DNAnexus
Ben Silbermann, CEO, Pinterest
Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft
Arne Sorenson, President and CEO, Marriott International
David Spector, Cofounder, ThirdLove
Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO, Yelp
Bret Taylor, CEO, Quip
Todd Thibodeaux, CEO, CompTIA
David Tisch, Managing Partner, BoxGroup
Nirav Tolia, Cofounder and CEO, Nextdoor
Kevin A. Trapani, President and CEO, The Redwood Groups
Ken Wasch, President, Software & Information Industry Association
Bob & Harvey Weinstein, Co-Founders and Co-Chairmen, The Weinstein Company
Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO, Facebook
The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the storied healthcare facility of U.S. presidents and wounded warriors, is making history again, becoming the first U.S. active military medical facility to earn the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality designation.
The world’s largest military hospital is joined this year by a growing number of healthcare facilities in the South in embracing LGBT-inclusive policies and practice, according to a report released today by the HRC Foundation.
“We are thrilled that a record number of healthcare facilities — from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to an increasing number of hospitals in the South — have committed to providing fully LGBT-inclusive healthcare for the patients they care for each year, as well as to protecting their LGBT workers from discrimination,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Over the last several years, our nation has made substantial progress on LGBT equality, including historic gains in the availability of full-inclusive healthcare.”
“I commend leaders of these inclusive facilities for using HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index as a roadmap, and for advancing equality in health care for our nation’s LGBT patients, their families, and for medical providers and caregivers,” Griffin said. “We still have much work to do to achieve full equality, but today we have a record number of leaders setting an example for other healthcare facilities across our nation.”
A record 2,061 healthcare facilities are rated in the HRC Foundation’s 2016 HEI survey, up 37 percent from the last survey. And an unprecedented 496 healthcare centers from all regions of the U.S. earned the Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality designation this year, with substantial gains in the South — including in Alabama, where three major Birmingham-area facilities were awarded leader status for the first time.
While every region of the country saw an increase in the number of medical facilities earning HEI leader status this year, the South stepped up with the second highest number of new leaders. It now ranks second only to the Northeast region in the number of hospitals and healthcare facilities committing to LGBT-competent and inclusive care.
Walter Reed, which admits more than 13,000 service members annually to its facilities and treats nearly 30,000 each year in its emergency department, joins the nation’s system of veterans hospitals as a Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality. The U.S. Veterans Health Administration and an overwhelming majority of its hospitals began participating in the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) in 2013.
To earn healthcare leader status, facilities must have established LGBT-inclusive patient non-discrimination policies, as well as employment non-discrimination policies that are fully LGBT-inclusive. They also ensure equal visitation rights for LGBT people, patients and families; and their staff members participate in training in LGBT patient-centered care.
“Walter Reed joins diverse healthcare facilities across the U.S. that are making tremendous strides toward LGBT patient-centered care,” said Tari Hanneman, author of the HEI and Deputy Director of the HRC Foundation’s Health and Aging Program. “In unprecedented numbers, they are committing to fully LGBT-inclusive policies for both their patients and their employees.”
Leadership shown by Walter Reed, the nation’s veterans hospitals, and other medical facilities embracing LGBT inclusion is sorely needed. While a record number of healthcare centers earned leader designation this year, too many continue to fall short in providing vital patient and employee non-discrimination protections.
Nearly half of the facilities that were independently researched by HRC Foundation staff performed poorly, particularly in the area of non-discrimination policies: only 58 percent have patient non-discrimination policies that include both sexual orientation and gender identity; and just 53 percent have LGBT-inclusive employment non-discrimination policies.
And four states have no facilities earning leader status this year: Alaska, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.
The HEI’s findings demonstrate the patchwork of protections nationwide for LGBT patients and their families, as well as LGBT healthcare facility employees, underscoring the need for uniform federal non-discrimination protections. LGBT Americans are facing a harsh choice between healthcare facilities that have policies that guarantee them equal care, and those that have consistently failed to take steps to ensure all patients receive inclusive, compassionate and respectful care.
The good news? The number of active HEI participants continues to grow, and their leaders are striving to meet HRC’s criteria for equal treatment of LGBT patients, as well as employees, and are succeeding. Many are going well beyond the survey’s criteria to do right by all their patients and workers by adopting additional HRC-recommended best practices, including offering employees trans-inclusive health insurance coverage.
The website Abado examined millions of tweets for “slurs and other prejudiced language against black people, Hispanic/Latino people, women, gays and lesbians, transgender people, people with disabilities, and the overweight.” Topping their list for anti-gay tweets was Buffalo. Here’s their overall breakdown by state:
Altogether, Louisiana places first with 1,155 slur-containing tweets out of every 100,000, indicating that approximately 1 in 87 tweets originating from Louisiana over the studied time period contained at least one of these slurs. In second is Nevada with 929, and Texas is nearly tied with 925 such tweets per 100,000.
These high-ranking states are geographically diverse. Not only are Gulf Coast states like Louisiana and Texas represented, but also Northeastern states such as Maryland, Delaware, and Rhode Island, as well as Ohio and Michigan in the Midwest and California on the West Coast.
Not all states were so vocal in their use of slurs and pejorative language. Ranking last in the nation, Wyoming used these terms in only 120 per 100,000 tweets – barely a tenth the rate of top-ranking Louisiana. Neighboring Montana, with 121, is nearly tied for last place.
Other Western and Midwestern states, such as South Dakota (192), Idaho (232), Minnesota (284), North Dakota (290), and Wisconsin (298), appeared among the bottom 10 as well. Southern and Northeastern states like Arkansas (244), Vermont (176), and Maine (288) also had some of the lowest levels of derogatory language use.
Pocan, Rangel Request Armed Services Committee Hold Hearing on Discharged Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Service Members
Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) this week sent a letter to Chairman Mac Thornberry requesting the House Committee on Armed Services hold a hearing on the challenges faced by gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members who were discharged from the military on the basis of their sexual orientation.
The letter states: “Since World War II, more than 100,000 individuals are estimated to have been discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation. Today, thousands of gay, lesbian, and bisexual veterans are tarnished with discharge statuses other than honorable. This status affects both their access to benefits they have earned from their service and their opportunities in civilian life, potentially hindering employment opportunities and the right to vote.”
Reps. Pocan and Rangel previously introduced the Restore Honor to Service Members Act in July 2015, which would help service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation correct their military records to reflect their honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned. The Restore Honor to Service Members Act has 113 cosponsors, including 4 Republicans, in the House and 38 cosponsors in the Senate.
A signed copy of the letter can be found here and the full text is below.
Dear Chairman Thornberry:
We write today to request the House Committee on Armed Services hold a hearing on the challenges faced by gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members who were discharged from the military on the basis of their sexual orientation and who seek to have their discharge characterization upgraded to “honorable.” Specifically, we request the Committee examine undue difficulties in the current review process and evaluate bipartisan solutions to address these problems.
The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 represented a significant step forward for our military and brought justice to thousands of gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members. This change allowed all individuals wishing to serve our country the opportunity to do so without being forced to hide who they are, and signaled to those discharged due to their sexual orientation that their service is deeply valued. Our military readiness and national security are stronger and we are closer to the American ideals of fairness and equality due to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Unfortunately, too many service members still bear the scars of this discriminatory policy. Since World War II, more than 100,000 individuals are estimated to have been discharged from the military due to their sexual orientation. Today, the records of thousands of gay, lesbian, and bisexual veterans are tarnished with discharge statuses other than honorable. This status affects both their access to benefits they have earned from their service and their opportunities in civilian life, potentially hindering employment opportunities and the right to vote. Even those discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” who received an honorable discharge status risk facing discrimination and a violation of privacy because the Narrative Reason for their discharge may include “Homosexual Conduct,” “Homosexual Act,” or “Homosexual Marriage.”
In response to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Department of Defense (DoD) took an important step by implementing a process for service members to appeal their discharge status and change their discharge narrative. However, this can be a burdensome course of action for service members, who often need to obtain legal counsel to navigate the process and provide paperwork they may no longer have.
We have introduced the Restore Honor to Service Members Act in order to streamline and codify the current DoD policy, ensuring all gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members have the opportunity to correct their record and affirm their honorable service. This legislation simplifies the paperwork requirement for a service member to initiate a review and clarifies that a review cannot be denied solely based on a lack of documentation. Further, the bill moves the burden to produce relevant documentation from the service member to the DoD. Lastly, the legislation requires military service historians to review the circumstances of these discharges, helping service members prove they were discharged solely due to their sexual orientation. The Restore Honor to Service Members Act has gained broad, bipartisan support in the United States Congress – 113 cosponsors in the 114th Congress – and offers a strong path forward to address current difficulties.
Our service members deserve a straightforward and accessible process to ensure their honorable service is reflected in their records. For these reasons, we urge the House Committee on Armed Services to schedule a hearing on this issue in the near future. We look forward to your response.
Earlier today, experts, civil rights leaders and a member of Congress hosted a press call to condemn the “religious freedom” arguments used to justify discrimination in state-based legislation and in the upcoming Supreme Court arguments in Zubik v. Burwell.
On the call, The Leadership Conference Education Fund released an update to its recent report Striking a Balance: Advancing Civil and Human Rights While Preserving Religious Liberty, which documents how religious arguments have been used to justify discrimination against diverse communities including opposing the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and equality, racial integration, inter-racial marriage, immigration, the Americans with Disabilities Act, same-sex marriage, and the right to collectively bargain. Click here to access the report.
The call comes as more than 100 anti-LGBT bills—many attempting to create religious carve-outs for discrimination—have been introduced in states nationwide this year, and days before the Supreme Court hears arguments in Zubik v. Burwell, a case considering whether non-profits may use religion to justify denying employees health insurance that includes contraceptives.
Quotes from the call’s participants are below.
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund
“So-called ‘religious freedom’ bills like those introduced in Congress and in states nationwide, and similar arguments being used in Supreme Court cases like Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and this week’s Zubik v. Burwell, are attempting to twist these values into an ugly justification of bigotry. These arguments are not new. But they are dangerous. There can be no religious exemption from basic human dignity. And to wrap this bigotry in a false flag of religious liberty is the true abomination.”
Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce
“When RFRA was adopted in the early 1990s, it was supported by a broad bipartisan coalition and was intended to provide protection for religious minorities. Since the passage of the federal RFRA, 21 states have passed state RFRAs, and this activity in the states makes it clear that it is past time for Congress to reexamine the overreach of RFRA. That is why I filed an amicus brief in the Zubik v. Burwell case. I am concerned that RFRA is being used as a sword, and not a shield, to advance harm to the rights of others in the pursuit of another’s religious exercise.”
Sarah Warbelow, legal director at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
“Over the years, it’s become clear that the new crop of states that are interested in perpetuating these RFRA laws are motivated by an interest in discrimination. A lot of that discrimination will occur to the LGBT community, who are often the target of such legislation. These bills are not motivated by a true desire to protect religious minorities, but instead to allow an individual to claim their religious beliefs as a reason to poke holes in legislation designed to protect us all.”
Gretchen Borchelt, vice president for reproductive rights and health at the National Women’s Law Center
“Women deserve insurance coverage of birth control no matter where they work. No woman should be denied the benefit she is entitled to as a matter of law because of her employer’s religious beliefs.”