Faith, Equality & Sexual Orientation: An Analysis of the Scope of the Proposed Religious Exemption in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act

For 20 years, Congress has considered whether to extend workplace protections to
employees based on their sexual-orientation by enacting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act
(ENDA). A major barrier to passing the legislation remains from legislators as well as religious
liberty groups over whether employers may claim a religious exemption from ENDA, and if so,
which employers should qualify? Thus, the successful passage of ENDA is likely to depend on a
religious exemption that successfully balances religious rights with the goal of preventing
workplace discrimination.
Since the 1960s, Congress has had a strong tradition of enacting statutes that aim to prevent
discrimination. Workplace rights were first revolutionized most notably by the Civil Rights Act of
1964. Since then, Congress has also enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and most recently, the
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. As the modern gay rights movement gains momentum, it is likely
that workplace protections for the gay community will eventually be passed.