EPPN urges advocacy to end workplace discrimination

October 5, 2009

The Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is urging individuals to join advocates throughout the United States in calling on Congress to end workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

"Many Americans do not realize that under current federal law, it is entirely legal to fire, hire, demote, promote, and make all other employment decisions based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and expression regardless of workplace performance," an October 6 EPPN alert said. "Specifically, it is legal to discriminate based upon sexual orientation in 29 states and based upon gender identity or expression in 38 states."

The EPPN alert, which is emailed to about 25,000 Episcopalians and religious advocates, noted that Representatives Barney Frank (Democratic-Massachusetts) and IIeana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican-Florida) and Senators Jeff Merkley (Democratic-Oregon) and Susan Collins (Republican-Maine) have introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill which would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"ENDA would prohibit employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees from discriminating against individuals on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity," the EPPN alert said.

The bill prohibits the use of sexual orientation and gender identity as a basis for determining the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment," the alert notes. "However, the bill explicitly exempts religious organizations from these requirements, protecting the First Amendment and Civil Rights protections of religious organizations who consider ENDA to be contrary to their doctrines and principles. No religious organization will be compelled to violate their doctrines and principles."

Through the EPPN website, individuals can send a letter asking their legislators to support H.R. 3017, the bill known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The letter acknowledges that the Episcopal Church, at the 76th General Convention in July, passed a resolution (C048) in support of ENDA.

"Biblical tradition teaches us that all human beings are created in the Divine image," the EPPN alert noted, citing Genesis 1:27. "Regardless of context, discrimination against any person arising from apathy, insensitivity, ignorance, fear, or hatred is inconsistent with this fundamental belief. As people of faith, we firmly oppose discrimination against all individuals, including gays and lesbians, for the stamp of the Divine is present in each and every one of us."