BY DONNA CASSATA
WASHINGTON -- The Senate adopted stronger protections for religious institutions in a historic gay rights bill that secured the conditional support of a key Republican who was the party's presidential nominee in 2008.
On a quick, voice vote Wednesday, the Senate approved an amendment from Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire that would prevent federal, state and local governments from retaliating against religious groups that are exempt from the law. The overall bill would prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
The vote set the stage for passage of the bill on Thursday when all 55 senators in the Democratic majority and a number of Republican senators are expected to back the measure.
Meanwhile, the conservative Family Research Council on Wednesday rejected the Portman-Ayotte amendment. From an FRC news release:
Senate's added ENDA Amendment Leaves Religious Non-Profits and Businesses Unprotected
November 06, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Family Research Council (FRC) dismissed as insufficient an amendment sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and adopted today by the U.S. Senate that is purported to protect religious freedoms under the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act" (ENDA), a bill that creates a special status for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in the workplace.
David Christensen, FRC's vice president for Government Affairs, made the following comments:
"The amendment added to ENDA today does virtually nothing to expand the already extremely narrow 'religious exemption,' and will do nothing to protect non-profits and businesses that operate from a faith perspective. Senators may be looking for political cover from this amendment, but ENDA removes the ability of non-profits, para-church ministries, and individual business owners to make their own decisions about appropriate conduct in the workplace. People's religious freedom rights do not stop at their front door on their way to work, whether they are a business owner or employee. Senators concerned with religious freedom protections should oppose ENDA, as fundamentally bad public policy," concluded Christensen.
Click here to download Family Research Council's new publication, "The ENDA Litigation Nightmare."