Citing ‘Hobby Lobby,’ Religious Groups Ask Obama for LGBT Exemptions


Read more of our coverage on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood cases here.

In recent days, RH Reality Check has reported on how the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case may unleash a flood of other corporate religious objections to public policy, and how the ruling could be used to discriminate against LGBT people. A letter to the Obama administration from a group of faith leaders indicates that these predictions could already be coming true.

Fourteen faith leaders, including many who have been allies of the administration, are urging the president to include a religious exemption in his upcoming executive order that will ban federal contractors from employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

It is not known whether or not the executive order will include such an exemption, but the faith leaders did not wait to find out. Michael Wear, who organized the letter and worked in the Obama White House, told Molly Ball of The Atlantic that it was “not an antagonistic letter by any means,” but that the Hobby Lobby decision means the administration has “a decision to make whether they want to recalibrate their approach to some of these issues.”

Hobby Lobby likely has no immediate policy implication on Obama’s forthcoming executive order, as it concerned closely held for-profit corporations with religious owners. The authors of the letter pointed to a broad religious exemption in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act pending in Congress, which would apply to all employers, not just federal contractors, and exempt groups such as churches, religious-service groups, and religious newspapers. LGBT advocates fear that such an exemption could provide a license to discriminate.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, asserted that the ruling in Hobby Lobby should not be taken as grounds to challenge anti-discrimination laws. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was unconvinced, questioning in her dissent why the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could grant a religious exception for the contraceptive mandate but not for anti-discrimination laws.

Just one day after the ruling came down, it became evident that Hobby Lobby would be more broad than initially thought and apply to the entire birth control benefit, not just the four methods Hobby Lobby’s owners objected to.

“While the nation has undergone incredible social and legal change over the last decade, we still live in a nation with different beliefs about sexuality,” the letter from the faith leaders read. “We must find a way to respect diversity of opinion.”

Meanwhile, as Dianna E. Anderson noted for RH Reality Check, any version of Obama’s executive order will still not be enough to fully address anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with Emily Crockett please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • bitchybitchybitchy

    Oh, it’s not antagonistic-Michael Wear simply wants his church, and other religious institutions, to be able to discriminate against the LGBT community.How very, very Christian of him.

    • lady_black

      Obama made an executive order concerning government contractors. Therefore, discrimination should preclude being a government contractor. You can do one or the other. Not both. I see no reason why government would need to hire churches, but if they DO hire churches, they can’t be permitted to discriminate.

  • StealthGaytheist

    We’re going to have anarchy, thanks to the demented notions that corporations are people, and that religious beliefs are above the law.

  • lady_black

    The Supreme Clowns have handed religions a giant shield from the consequences of discrimination. Thanks, guys. I don’t want my tax dollars being spent to discriminate.

    • blfdjlj

      This has nothing to do with Hobby Lobby. These religious groups want the same exemptions that exist in the ENDA that the Democratic-controlled easily passed last year. I don’t see any problems here.

      • lady_black

        Um, what are you babbling about? ENDA is not yet a law, and if it were a law, there are no exemptions for government contractors. Government contractors may not discriminate, period.

      • Shan

        ” I don’t see any problems here.”

        Let me guess, you’re a straight WASP male, right?

        • blfdjlj

          Yawn… race-baiting once again?

          • Shan

            Never. But I notice you didn’t say I was wrong.

          • blfdjlj

            I am atheist, not Anglo-Saxon, and I’ve been called “not fully white”. But again, why should this make any difference in our discussion? Are you suggesting that only transgender intersex mixed-race Buddhists should have a right to discuss birth control?

            The obsession with race only leads to cases like Harry Reid bemoaning the “five white men” who issue the Hobby Lobby decision, even though Justice Thomas is black.

  • red_zone

    Just saw a Boston Globe article about Gordon College being one of those institutions asking for exemptions.regarding the hiring rule. Am NOT surprised this happened, and especially not surprised to see these institutions jumping all over it.

    SCOTUS created a precedent, and now we’re all going to suffer for it for who know how long it will take to get a few new justices with COMMON SENSE onto the bench!

  • P. McCoy

    Time to begin a rally to get the Constitution amended so as to prevent the scourge of religious tyranny and the creation of a discrimatory, theocratic state masking as exercising religious freedom and liberty. Also religions that advocate political views that are masked as “moral values” as well as inititiating how to vote need their tax exemptions stripped and begin to pay stiff taxes as political groups. Further, if women are going to be subjected to so called non violent opposing views related to abortion and contraception, then equally, pro choicers should have equal access to protest at churches defending LGBT and contraceptive/abortion rights as well as call for the participation of these churches in rounding up and prosecuting priest child and youth rapists.

    • StealthGaytheist

      I agree. Give them a taste of their own medicine.

  • Suba gunawardana

    Not surprising at all. Before long it will a religious exemption to commit rape and hang rape victims.

    • Kevin Carroll

      You’re an idiot.

      • Suba gunawardana

        Nice “argument” there. Spoken like one of those religious nuts I mentioned :)

      • fiona64

        What’s the matter? Did someone blow your theory that “The Handmaid’s Tale” is an instruction manual?