What is Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)?
Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is legislation proposed in the United States Congress that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by employers with at least 15 employees. Certain religious organizations as well as the military would also be exempt.
Is this new legislation?
Not exactly. ENDA has been introduced in every Congressional session since 1994, with the e exception of the 109th (Jan. 2005 – Jan. 2007). The bill gained its best chance at passing after the Democratic Party broke twelve years of Republican Congressional rule in the 2006 midterm elections. In 2007, gender identity protections were added to the legislation for the first time. The Senate voted last week (64-32) to pass the legislation, though it is opposed by a majority in the House.
What does ENDA do?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 currently prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. ENDA would add the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protections.
What are the primary objections to the legislation?
ENDA defines “sexual orientation” as “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality” but offers no definition of those terms or what principle limits “orientation” to those three. Likewise, ENDA defines “gender identity” as “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.” As the Heritage Foundation explains, “unlike previous versions of the bill, ENDA’s current incarnation now creates special rights for transgendered individuals—males who dress and act as females and females who dress and act as males—and forbids employers from considering the consequences of such behavior at the workplace.”
Also, unlike Title VII, ENDA does not allow employers to make employment decisions that could otherwise constitute discrimination so long as those decisions are honestly related to job qualifications. For example, Title VII contains a qualification that allows employers to take sex into account: hiring a female camp counselor at an all-girls sleep-away summer camp, for example. ENDA has no provision that would protect those jobs where one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a bona fide occupational qualification that is reasonably connected to the mission of the business and the responsibilities of the job.
Why should Christians in particular be opposed to ENDA?
As Andrew Walker, Director of Policy Studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, explains:
As a practical matter, ENDA teaches a view of human embodiment that Christians will strongly object to. Christianity embraces the body and self as an integrated whole; as unique creations that witness to the divine action and creativity of God through our being created male and female. Male and female are not arbitrary, socially imposed constructs. They are rooted in our biology. In contrast, the worldview behind ENDA assumes an “expressive individualism” where our bodies become instruments of the will, capable of being re-created according to preference and desire.
Additionally, while some religious organizations would be exempted from ENDA, it does not exempt those who wish to run their businesses or non-profits in a way that is consistent with the Christian view of sex and gender identity. For example, a Christian bookstore could be accused of creating a hostile work environment by selling and promoting books stating that marriage unites one man with one woman.