- prevent retaliation against people of faith in the workplace;
- respect the right of each state to preserve its definition of marriage; and
- remove language covering acts of discrimination based on a person's "perceived" ssexual orientation.
All of Souder's amendments to ENDA were defeated. Souder, who opposes ENDA, claimed his amendments were necessary to protect religious freedom. Bear in mind that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already protects people from discrimination on the basis of their religion. As proposed, ENDA also provides a broad exemption for religious organizations. Yet, Souder had this to say after his amendments were rejected and the committee passed ENDA:
“In their quest to grant special rights to homosexuals, Democrats are trampling on the religious freedoms of all Americans,” said Souder, a senior member of the Education and Labor Committee. “If this legislation is enacted into law, there will be a proliferation of lawsuits against Americans whose religious beliefs do not condone homosexuality. This would be a radical change in the law, and its effect would be felt far and wide.” “Liberal Democrats are so anxious to promote the homosexual agenda that they would force businesses and organizations, including Christian bookstores, colleges and camps, to hire homosexuals,” Souder added. “Group homes wouldn’t be able to have marriage standards. The Boy Scouts and Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs couldn’t have their own sexual-behavior guidelines. This is an outrageous assault on religious freedom in America.”
"Special rights to homosexuals?" "An outrageous assault on religious freedom in America?" "C'mon, Mark. Why is it a special right to protect gay people from discrimination but not a special right for the law to protect Christians from discrimination? The real purpose behind Souder's attempt to amend ENDA was his desire to allow an employer accused of discriminating against gay and lesbian employees to avoid liability by simply claiming he was practicing what his religious faith tought him. I have a hunch a lot of employers would suddenly find their religion if Souder's approach to ending discrimination in the workplace was adopted.
Souder suggests ENDA would redefine state laws defining marriage between one man and one woman. Nothing could be further from the truth. What ENDA does not permit is the conditioning of a person's employment on the basis of their marital status or their ability to marry. Employers will still be able to offer married employees benefits not offered to unmarried employees. ENDA specifically provides that "nothing in this Act shall be construed to require a covered entity to treat a couple who are not married, including a same-sex couple who are not married, in the same manner as the covered entity treats a married couple for purposes of employee benefits."
It's one thing for Souder to oppose ENDA. It is quite another thing for him to deliberately misrepresent what ENDA does. It's hard to describe his words and actions as anything other than an attempt to engage in gay-bashing to stir up the religious right. He has plenty of company in his gay-bashing ways over at the American Family Association of Indiana, which has come under fire this past week for running gay-bashing radio ads against Fort Wayne mayoral candidate Tom Henry to boost the troubled campaign of the indicted Matt Kelty.
According to the AFA, "Souder took a valiant stand in defense of religious freedom and freedom of association and of thought when he offered three amendments to openly homosexual Congressman Barney Frank's ENDA legislation in the House Education and Labor Committee." The AFA describes ENDA as "a bill that would grant special and sweeping rights to people engaging in homosexual behaviors as if such changeable and even risky actions are the moral and legal equivalent of one's race, gender or skin color." Notice as usual the AFA omits the word "religion" here. You see, their opposition to protecting a person from discrimination based on sexual orientation is premised on their misguided belief that a person chooses their sexual orientation. Of course, a person can choose which religion he desires to practice but we still don't permit discrimination based upon a person's religion simply because it's a personal choice.
Leave it to the religious right to claim an infringement upon its rights when it wants carte blanche to discriminate against anyone with whom it disapproves.