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March 28, 2016 0

Lawsuit to Be Filed Challenging Broadest Anti-LGBT Law in the Nation

By David Barkey, Reli­gious Free­dom Counsel

 

Under the false and offen­sive pre­text of safety in bath­rooms, North Car­olina last week enacted the broad­est anti-LGBT law in the nation.  Adopted in a reck­less and inequitable man­ner, the new law not only sanc­tions dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT peo­ple, but under­mines the rights of vir­tu­ally all North Car­olini­ans.  Yes­ter­day, ACLU, Lamda Legal and Equal­ity North Car­olina announced that they will be fil­ing a fed­eral law­suit chal­leng­ing the statute.

In Feb­ru­ary 2016, the City of Char­lotte, NC added pro­tec­tions for the cat­e­gories of gen­der iden­tity and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion to its Non-Discrimination Ordi­nance.  In response, the State Leg­is­la­ture called a spe­cial ses­sion, cus­tom­ar­ily reserved for bud­get, nat­ural dis­as­ter or redis­trict­ing emer­gen­cies, to over­turn the amended Ordinance.

Flag_of_North_Carolina.svgWithin twenty-four hours, the leg­is­la­ture — with­out pub­lic hear­ings or input — hastily enacted sweep­ing leg­is­la­tion (House Bill 2) and the Gov­er­nor signed it into law.  It pro­hibits trans­gen­der peo­ple from using restrooms or chang­ing facil­i­ties in accor­dance with their gen­der iden­tity, which iron­i­cally will require trans­gen­der men to use women’s facil­i­ties. But the law did not stop there.

It pro­hibits local gov­ern­ment from adopt­ing any anti-discrimination pro­tec­tions for LGBT peo­ple.  Fur­ther­more, the law pro­hibits any North Car­olin­ian from fil­ing an anti-discrimination law­suit in state court, includ­ing a reli­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion claim.  It also bars local gov­ern­ments from rais­ing the min­i­mum wage or requir­ing con­trac­tors to pay a pre­vail­ing wage or to pro­vide ben­e­fits such as sick leave.

House Bill 2, and the process by which it was adopted, are dis­grace­ful.  The law con­veys the clear mes­sage that the major­ity of North Carolina’s state gov­ern­ment sanc­tions dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBT peo­ple.  Undoubt­edly it will dam­age the State’s econ­omy, result in costly lit­i­ga­tion, and jeop­ar­dize fed­eral fund­ing for North Car­olina.  We are con­fi­dent that the court hear­ing the law­suit chal­leng­ing House Bill 2 will strike down this appalling and uncon­sti­tu­tional law if the leg­is­la­ture does not recon­sider and repeal it first.

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April 4, 2014 0

Coalition Promotes Expanded Religious Accommodation In The Military

On Jan­u­ary 22, 2014 the Depart­ment of Defense (DoD) pub­lished an updated and revised Instruc­tion 1300.17–Accommodation of Reli­gious Prac­tices Within the Mil­i­tary Ser­vicesThe new guid­ance, which describes pol­icy, pro­ce­dures, and respon­si­bil­i­ties for the accom­mo­da­tion of reli­gious prac­tices in the Armed Forces, was designed “to ensure the pro­tec­tion of rights of con­science of mem­bers of the Armed Forces.”  The updated guid­ance sought to strike the proper bal­ance between mil­i­tary readi­ness and reli­gious free­dom for ser­vice mem­bers.   But it fell short in not pro­vid­ing a suf­fi­cient accom­mo­da­tion for some fun­da­men­tal aspects of minor­ity reli­gious practice.  120407-M-KX613-023.jpg

For exam­ple, the guid­ance lays out a for­mal process so that Jew­ish and Sikh sol­diers may request an accom­mo­da­tion for their required head cov­er­ings (a kip­pah or a tur­ban) and incor­po­rates groom­ing stan­dards that pro­vide a path for approval for beards.   How­ever, each sol­dier must still request an indi­vid­ual, case-by-case accom­mo­da­tion under the guid­ance – a daunt­ing and stress­ful prospect for some, with an uncer­tain out­come.   In the name of “…main­tain­ing uni­form mil­i­tary groom­ing and appear­ance stan­dards,” the effect is to exclude some indi­vid­u­als who would oth­er­wise wel­come the oppor­tu­nity to serve their coun­try in the military.  

In Jan­u­ary, the House Armed Ser­vices Sub­com­mit­tee on Mil­i­tary Per­son­nel held hear­ings on reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions in the mil­i­tary. ADL, the Sikh Coali­tion, and the ACLU, (among oth­ers) raised this issue in their state­ments.  And Holly Holl­man, Gen­eral Coun­sel for the Bap­tist Joint Com­mit­tee on Reli­gious Lib­erty, artic­u­lately described  the del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act fac­ing the mil­i­tary in address­ing reli­gious lib­erty concerns. 

Impor­tantly, more than 100 Mem­bers of Con­gress have weighed in on reli­gious accom­mo­da­tion in the mil­i­tary in a let­ter to the Pen­ta­gon, coor­di­nated by Rep. Joseph Crow­ley (D-NY).   

And this week ADL, the Sikh Coali­tion, and the ACLU coor­di­nated a let­ter to the Pen­ta­gon from an unusu­ally broad coali­tion of twenty-one national groups with real reli­gious lib­erty cre­den­tials and sub­ject mat­ter exper­tise.  The inter­faith coali­tion let­ter stated that the cur­rent guid­ance “need­lessly infringe on the rights of these reli­giously obser­vant ser­vice mem­bers and prospec­tive ser­vice mem­bers” and urged the Pen­ta­gon to fine-tune the Instruc­tion to bet­ter accom­mo­date reli­gious practices. 

The same com­mand struc­ture that pro­vides unique pres­sure to con­form within the mil­i­tary – and poten­tial for inap­pro­pri­ate pros­e­ly­tiz­ing and reli­gious coer­cion – also makes the direct involve­ment of the Pentagon’s lead­er­ship in pro­mot­ing effec­tive, uni­form guid­ance and solu­tions to this prob­lem crit­i­cally important. 

The sig­na­to­ries to the coali­tion let­ter are: 

Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, Amer­i­can Jew­ish Com­mit­tee (AJC). Amer­i­cans United for Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State, Anti-Defamation League, Bap­tist Joint Com­mit­tee for Reli­gious Lib­erty, Becket Fund for Reli­gious Lib­erty, Chap­lain Alliance for Reli­gious Lib­erty, Chris­t­ian Legal Soci­ety, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Epis­co­pal Church, Forum on the Mil­i­tary Chap­laincy, Gen­eral Con­fer­ence of Seventh-day Adven­tists, Inter­faith Alliance, Mus­lim Advo­cates, National Coun­cil of Jew­ish Women, Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF), Sikh Coali­tion, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Together (SAALT), United Methodist Church, Gen­eral Board of Church and Soci­ety, Union of Ortho­dox Jew­ish Con­gre­ga­tions of Amer­ica, Union for Reform Judaism

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