Right Turn has expressed admiration for the gay rights and gay marriage advocates across the country who’ve changed hearts and minds and helped bring about wholesale societal change in record time. But I think they are badly mistaken in one respect. The Post reports:
Several major gay rights groups withdrew support Tuesday for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would bolster gay and transgender rights in the workplace, saying they fear that broad religious exemptions included in the current bill might compel private companies to begin citing objections similar to those that prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court case last week.
The gay community is a key constituency and source of campaign donations for Democrats, and calls to rewrite the most significant gay rights legislation considered in recent years is a major setback for the White House, which had used passage of the legislation last fall as a way to draw a contrast with House Republicans, who have refused to vote on the measure.
But the groups said they can no longer back ENDA as currently written in light of the Supreme Court’s decision last week to strike down a key part of President Obama’s health-care law. The court ruled that family-owned businesses do not have to offer their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the owners’ religious beliefs.
This is the equivalent of Republicans in the House saying they won’t pass immigration because the president might use discretion in implementing it or continuing unilaterally changing the law. Which is worse: some legislative framework or no bill at all? In both cases it makes sense to get as much as possible, as soon as possible and work out the glitches later.
Moreover, these groups are over-reading the Hobby Lobby ruling, as are many in the media. The court’s majority and Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurrence both noted that the balance of compelling interests may be different in other contexts (e.g. employment discrimination) and there may well be no less restrictive method to assure equal employment than ENDA. There is no reason at this point to anticipate future Supreme Court rulings on this point or to adopt the dissent’s view of the majority’s holding. In doing so, the pro-gay rights advocates sacrifice their own cause to larger liberal agenda (e.g. bashing the court, making the Hobby Lobby case a campaign issue).
And finally, by backing off ENDA gay rights activists let too many off the hook. The excuses given on the right for not passing ENDA, we have shown, are largely specious. Now gay rights advocates are giving opponents an out, rather than working to persuade them and their constituents that no one should be denied a job because of sexual orientation — a concept the vast number of Americans would agree with. Republicans need to be cajoled into rethinking their views on this issue, and unfortunately dropping the issue only hinders that process. I’d urge gay rights advocates to rethink their strategy. It is not good law, good policy or good politics to drop the fight against employment discrimination.