A bill to forbid “discrimination” against homosexuals and transgender employees could “punish” those who hold to traditional views about sexuality and biology, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) warns.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would penalize employers accused of discriminating against gay, bisexual, or transgender employees. But the Catholic bishops and other Christian critics of the bill say its enforcement could go well beyond opening doors to hard-working and aggrieved workers.
“ENDA could be used to punish as discrimination what many religions – including the Catholic religion – teach, particularly moral teaching about same-sex sexual conduct,” the bishops wrote in a letter sent to all U.S. senators on October 31. The letter was signed by three bishops: Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore; and Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California.
The bishops expressed concern that ENDA makes no distinction between same-sex attraction and homosexual acts, which they said could lead to faithful business owners, and perhaps religious institutions, being sued, fined, or harassed by the federal government. While the Catholic Church urges Catholics to treat homosexuals with compassion, it also holds all sex outside marriage to be sinful.
The bill’s religious exemption is too narrow, the bishops say, adding that “recent experience also shows that even exempted employers may face government retaliation for relying on such exemptions.”
A provision related to “gender identity” could force female employees to share a restroom, locker room, or shower facility with a biological male who says he “identifies” as a female.
Speaking delicately, the bishops write that this clause “fails to account for the privacy interests of others, particularly in workplace contexts where they may reasonably expect only members of the same sex to be present.”
This law, they say, differs from laws based on immutable characteristics like one’s skin color.
ENDA legislation would give homosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender people greater civil rights than those discriminated against based on religion or national origin, the letter says, because the bill lacks a “bona fide occupational qualifications,” an exemption allowing an employer to refuse to hire a person of a certain background when job requirements demand it.
Aside from these defects, the bishops say the bill presents a warped view of human identity, sexuality, and will be used as further justification for judicial activists to redefine marriage.
“ENDA’s definition of ‘gender identity’ lends force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender’ as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality, which a person may choose at variance from his or her biological sex,” they write – something that strikes at the heart of the Christian worldview of man.
A law dedicated to homosexual interests would mainstream sex outside marriage, the USCCB wrote. “Sexual acts outside of marriage serve neither these goods nor the good of the person and society as a whole,” they wrote.
ENDA, which has been consistently defeated since it was first introduced in 1994, passed a Senate vote yesterday to restrict debate and clear the way for its passage.