‘Asterisk Equality’ Isn’t Real Equality: Fighting for an ENDA Without Exemptions


I attended Catholic school in Ohio for 13 years. For 13 years, I sat daily in religion classes and made weekly trips to church. I was taught to believe in a god that loved all of creation. I was taught to believe in a god that created a beautiful diversity of humanity. Sadly, the god being invoked today by conservative legislators bears no resemblance to the god I encountered in Catholic school. This god—a god of political ambition and radical ideology—has no place in my education, in my uterus, or in my civil liberties.

There is a bill pending in the Senate right now that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), has been languishing in Congress for decades. Despite popular support for passing the bill, legislators are invoking the god of political ambition and radical ideology to include a broad religious exemption in the bill—and there’s a threat of that exemption becoming even broader as ENDA is debated on the Senate floor this week.

To accept the broad religious exemptions in ENDA is in an insult to the incredible progress the LGBTQ community has already made. We come from a history of people who fought tirelessly to humanize our lived experiences. Our community, our culture, and our souls are rooted in the traditions of those warriors who have blazed trails ahead of us.

For them, and for us, separate but equal is not good enough.

As a first-generation Indian-American queer woman who is cloaked in “otherness” every day, I am distinctly aware of how being seen as “other” informs one’s reality. Historically marginalized communities are used to fighting for our very humanity. We fight because we are separate, and we fight to become equal.

We have been fighting for workplace equality for decades. This fight is steeped in generations of political complicity with inequality—of forced closets, of dehumanization, of separation. And this is the same fight that others who have been marginalized have fought and continue to fight.

Across the country right now, dozens of court cases are being fought over whether employers have the legal right to impose their personal beliefs on contraception and reproduction on their employees. The fight for the right to make one’s own decisions about health, family, and body is very similar to what we’re facing in the fight for employment fairness. And our opponents are the same—they ascribe to the same god of political ambition and radical ideology, and will not stop until their religious bigotry is preserved and protected by the Constitution, regardless of whose humanity that bigotry tramples upon.

Conservatives are using bigotry and shame, disguised as “religious liberty,” to keep queer people and women “in our place.” They are offering us “asterisk equality”—as long as that asterisk exempts them from actually granting equality.

I live an intersectional life. My identity meets at the intersection of oppressions, and yet I find power in resisting that oppression—standing arm in arm with those who believe, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Every time we give in to an oppressive piece of legislation, we allow a lesbian teacher at a Catholic school to get fired. Every time we remain silent as employers force their personal beliefs on their employees, we tell a woman that she has no right to govern her own body. Every time we allow the radical right to chip away at the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, we admit that we are “less than.”

When I was coming to terms with my queerness, I was told “it gets better.” I have come to learn that it gets better only when we choose to make it better. After decades of fighting to be able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or by our glitter pumps, it is unacceptable to be fed watered-down legislation posing as liberation. We deserve justice everywhere—and I intend to lift my voice to call on the Senate to deliver it.

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  • CJ99

    The opening article is spot on. What the right wing fanatics trot out as “godly” is the polar opposite of who god really is. I can’t say for certain what heaven is but I will say this: I don’t expect to be seeing Pat Robertson or those like him anywhere near the place.

  • cvxxx

    The law does not go far enough. It should include former legal activities,or employment.

    • CJ99

      You’re idea of idiocracy as a form of government is living proof of that saying “When fascism comes to America it will come wrapped in the flag & carrying the cross”. Though I forgot who said it he was looking squarely at you.

      • cvxxx

        So you are in favor of discrimination?

        • CJ99

          You want to openly discriminate against others and harass based on “legal activities, or employment”, that’s your own words yet you accuse me of supporting discrimination. You truly are 1 revoltingly sick fanatic. I’m glad I don’t live in your world where jerry springer & wrestling are considered “real”.

          • cvxxx

            Wrong, I suggested that the anti discrimination law should include these categories as well.

          • CJ99

            Nope you just got caught lying again. Too bad so sad. I did wonder why you lie so much why your not making an effort or are you really that bad at it. But then, your insidious drivel is just not that important. It matters not what steaming pile of crap you hide behind your discriminatory fantasy world collapsed like a house of cards in a hurricane. Move along, your done.

          • cvxxx

            Since you cannot comprehend anything above 4th grade level it does not surprise me.

          • CJ99

            Hey nutjob. Let me clue you in here. Nobody believes your bullshit. I am not ignorant, neither is anyone else here. Whats clear to all is your not just a troll but a sadistic coward who hides behind a keyboard and gets a perverse thrill from inflicting pain on others. You are not a saviour your a psychopath. Here’s another hint for you, when your judgement comes you will not be sitting at the right hand of god as he wants nothing to do with you. And one last matter of fact for you, you can’t hurt me as the power you think you have is an unreal part of the demented fantasy you live in. Don’t like it? Piss off nobody cares what you think.

          • cjvg

            Notice how both hugh and cvxxx have nothing to use as a legitimate arguments but instead resort to name calling, unsubstantiated determinations of your intellect for opposing their views and insinuations and threats of gods wrath if you continue to disagree with their views!

            Interestingly enough neither have any relevant (or even irrelevant) facts or arguments to contribute to strengthen or explain their position, other then “because I say so”
            Both are clearly suffering from the; “i’am god complex, how dare you disagree with me”
            Unfortunately for society there is no use in arguing with a rock, and clearly that is all they have in their heads!

            PS; especially like the epic slap down you put on hugh when he usurped the powers of the god he claims to serve

          • CJ99

            thanks, it’s something I’ve started calling “layeth the smacketh down” I borrowed it from the king james wrestling federation (kidding!). I’m fond of relating things to the real world where I live (even though earth can be a crazy place most of the time). what you’ve said is just what I’ve been thinking. The fascists that are so offensive claim godhood as their own, not cause they really stand up for god, they’re quite the opposite, they do so for their own power. What they don’t realize is god is not the nuclear deterrent. They don’t consider the what if of having to face god in person and being asked why are they using god as their own personal hench-thug?

          • Hugh Vincelette

            Sorry, but I’d suggest ‘above kindergarten’.

          • Hugh Vincelette

            With your bigoted & exclusionary attitudes, & if there is any truth to religious beliefs; you have condemned yourself to eternal banishment from the sight of God.,

          • CJ99

            Are you really that stupid to think anyone would fall for that? I’ve got a clue for you hugh. You have no right to condem or banish anyone from god. To even attempt such is to claim that you are god. Where quite the opposite is true.

          • Hugh Vincelette

            Granted, my comment is mis-worded. Sorry. It was not my intent to assume the right to condemn anyone to perdition of any sort. It was only a suggestion ; being keenly aware that many conservative religious groups & individuals routinely pass judgement on entire segments of humanity , & state emphatically that they are hell bound.

          • cjvg

            Your comment was not only mis-worded it was immensely arrogant!
            You clearly consider yourself to be god with all the inherent powers he has!

            Only when your nose is firmly smashed into your immense display of arrogance (without leaving you any possibility of excusing your attitude), do you grudgingly acknowledge your disturbing tendency to consider your judgment and your gods judgment one and the same

          • CJ99

            “Misworded” doesn’t begin to cover it, you pretended to be god so you could feel justified in claiming “condemned to eternal banishment from the sight of god”. In effect you deified yourself as a justification to advocate murder. You are what the current generation calls Batshit insane.

  • Hugh Vincelette

    Perhaps what is more accurate, with all due respect, is the fact that religious exeptions from ENDA are an insult to humanity, & human dignity.