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April 3, 2015 6

Arkansas’ and Indiana’s Fixes to “Religious Freedom” Laws are Illusory

Arkansas’ and Indiana’s pas­sage of dis­crim­i­na­tory “reli­gious free­dom” laws was met with national back­lash from civil rights groups, the busi­ness com­mu­nity, and oth­ers.  Under intense pub­lic pres­sure, both state leg­is­la­tures made “fixes” to these laws, which their respec­tive Gov­er­nors promptly signed.   But these revi­sions are illu­sory and do lit­tle to mit­i­gate the harms of these laws.

Nei­ther of the orig­i­nal Arkansas or Indi­ana mea­sures men­tioned sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or dis­crim­i­na­tion. Under the guise of reli­gious free­dom, how­ever, both allowed busi­nesses and employ­ers to dis­crim­i­nate against the LGBT com­mu­nity, as well as against reli­gious and eth­nic minori­ties, by pro­vid­ing them with a vir­tu­ally insur­mount­able religious-based legal defense.Arkansas-StateSeal.svg

Pro­po­nents of these laws erro­neously claimed that they were mod­eled on the 1993 fed­eral Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion (“RFRA”).  That RFRA, which the Anti-Defamation League sup­ported, was much nar­rower and explic­itly designed to pro­tect indi­vid­u­als and faith-based insti­tu­tions’ reli­gious exer­cise from gov­ern­ment infringe­ment.   It was never meant to apply to for-profit enti­ties or pri­vate dis­putes, or to enable enti­ties to dis­crim­i­nate against indi­vid­u­als in the name of “reli­gious freedom.”

Indiana’s fix to its law pro­hibits busi­nesses from deny­ing ser­vices to cus­tomers based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.  And Arkansas’ revi­sion now tracks the lan­guage of RFRA and states that it should be inter­preted con­sis­tent with the fed­eral law.  While these fixes may make good media sound bites, they are misleading.

The revised Indi­ana law does not pro­vide statewide civil rights pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity or pre­vent its use to harm oth­ers.  Because the state does not have an inclu­sive anti-discrimination statute, and because the vast major­ity of Indi­ana cities and towns lack local civil rights pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity, busi­nesses and employ­ers remain free to dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or gen­der iden­tity.   Even with this fix, the Indi­ana law still pro­vides a pow­er­ful religious-based defense to indi­vid­u­als and busi­nesses in civil and crim­i­nal actions, and infringes on the rights of oth­ers.  For exam­ple, a police offi­cer could refuse to pro­tect a casino, liquor store, phar­macy, butcher shop, lend­ing insti­tu­tion, or women’s health clinic.

Indiana-StateSeal.svg

The amended Arkansas law is per­haps more disin­gen­u­ous.  Although it is now con­sis­tent with RFRA, the U.S. Supreme Court’s deeply dis­turb­ing Hobby Lobby deci­sion expands RFRA’s pro­tec­tions to for-profit, closely held cor­po­ra­tions (rang­ing from small busi­nesses to nation­wide com­pa­nies like Hobby Lobby).  And a 1999 fed­eral U.S. Court of Appeals deci­sion applic­a­ble to Arkansas ruled that RFRA applies to pri­vate disputes.

So a fam­ily owned busi­ness, large or small, can invoke the new law’s pow­er­ful defense in vir­tu­ally any civil action, includ­ing claims of dis­crim­i­na­tion or wrong­ful denial of ser­vice, employ­ment or hous­ing.  Keep in mind, 96.6% of Arkansas’ employ­ers are small busi­nesses.  Trans­la­tion: the vast major­ity of Arkansas’ busi­nesses can use the law to deny ser­vices, employ­ment, and hous­ing to the LGBT com­mu­nity and other minori­ties.  Mak­ing mat­ters worse, Arkansas has no state-wide civil rights pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity, and it recently enacted another law bar­ring local gov­ern­ments from pro­vid­ing such pro­tec­tions for their residents.

To truly rem­edy the harm­ful effects of their so-called “reli­gious free­dom” laws, Arkansas and Indi­ana must enact statewide anti-discrimination pro­tec­tions for the LGBT com­mu­nity, insert addi­tional safe­guards against use of the laws to harm oth­ers, and limit their appli­ca­tion to indi­vid­u­als, reli­gious insti­tu­tions, and religiously-affiliated non-profits against gov­ern­ment action that sub­stan­tially bur­dens religion.

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March 12, 2015 2

ADL Urges Supreme Court to Protect Religious Freedom by Supporting Marriage Equality

ADL brought together a broad coali­tion of reli­gious, cul­tural and civil rights orga­ni­za­tions, rep­re­sent­ing diverse faiths, tra­di­tions and cul­tures, to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to reject efforts to impose one par­tic­u­lar reli­gious under­stand­ing of mar­riage into law.

Photo credit Victoria Pickering

Photo credit Vic­to­ria Pickering

ADL filed a friend– of-the-court brief in the four cases pend­ing before the Court: Oberge­fell v. Hodges, Tanco v. Haslam, DeBoer v. Sny­der, and Bourke v. Beshear. These cases chal­lenge Mar­riage Bans in Ohio, Ten­nessee, Michi­gan, and Ken­tucky, state con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments that define mar­riage as exclu­sively between one man and one woman. The brief, filed on behalf of a coali­tion of 25 orga­ni­za­tions, recounts how dis­crim­i­na­tion tar­get­ing dis­ad­van­taged groups – odi­ous arti­facts such as slav­ery, seg­re­ga­tion, bans on inter­ra­cial mar­riage, and laws sub­ju­gat­ing women – all now con­sid­ered anachro­nis­tic blem­ishes – were jus­ti­fied by reli­gious and moral dis­ap­proval, an argu­ment that has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief also argues that over­turn­ing the mar­riage bans would not only ensure that reli­gious con­sid­er­a­tions do not improp­erly influ­ence which mar­riages the state can rec­og­nize, but would also allow reli­gious groups to decide the def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage for them­selves. Reli­gions are, and absolutely should remain, free to sol­em­nize and rec­og­nize mar­riages as they see fit, as they do when it comes to inter­faith mar­riages or mar­riages post-divorce. This brief is just the lat­est effort by ADL to advance Les­bian, Gay, Bisex­ual, and Trans­gen­der (LGBT) rights around the coun­try and across the globe. ADL was joined on the briefs by The Amer­i­can Jew­ish Com­mit­tee; Bend the Arc – A Jew­ish Part­ner­ship for Jus­ticeThe Cen­tral Con­fer­ence of Amer­i­can Rab­bis and the Women of Reform Judaism; Global Jus­tice Insti­tute; Hadas­sah – The Women’s Zion­ist Orga­ni­za­tion of Amer­ica, Inc.; The Hindu Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion; The Inter­faith Alliance Foun­da­tion; The Japan­ese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League; Jew­ish Social Pol­icy Action Net­work (JSPAN); Keshet; Luther­ans Concerned/North Amer­ica; Met­ro­pol­i­tan Com­mu­nity Church; More Light Pres­by­te­ri­ans; The National Coun­cil of Jew­ish Women; Nehirim; Peo­ple for the Amer­i­can Way Foun­da­tion; Pres­by­ter­ian Wel­come; Rec­on­cil­ing­Works: Luther­ans for Full Par­tic­i­pa­tion; Recon­struc­tion­ist Rab­bini­cal Col­lege and Jew­ish Recon­struc­tion­ist Com­mu­ni­ties; Reli­gious Insti­tute, Inc.; The Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund; Soci­ety for Human­is­tic Judaism; South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Together; T’ruah: Rab­bis for Human Rights-North Amer­ica; and Women’s League for Con­ser­v­a­tive Judaism. The law firm Green­berg Trau­rig LLP pre­pared the friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of ADL.

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June 7, 2014 0

Why Pride?

“Stonewall was just the flip side of the black revolt when Rosa Parks took a stand.  Finally, the kids down there took a stand. But it was peace­ful.  I mean, they said it was a riot; it was more like a civil disobedience.”

– Storme DeLarverie (1920–2014), early leader in the Gay Rights Movement

June is LGBT Pride Month.  To under­stand the LGBT move­ment, it’s impor­tant to appre­ci­ate the mean­ing of pride.  Pride, accord­ing to Merriam-Webster, is “a feel­ing that you respect your­self and deserve to be respected by other peo­ple.”  How does this trans­late into LGBT pride or pride amongst any other group of peo­ple such as African Amer­i­cans, Jews, women or immi­grants? Espe­cially for groups of peo­ple who have been oppressed, mar­gin­al­ized, dis­crim­i­nated against and tar­geted for bul­ly­ing, harass­ment and vio­lence, pride is key.  Pride is a group of peo­ple stand­ing together and affirm­ing their self-worth, their his­tory and accom­plish­ments, their capa­bil­ity, dig­nity and their vis­i­bil­ity.  It is a vocal and pow­er­ful state­ment to them­selves and the world that they deserve to be treated with respect and equal­ity. Pride is a way out.

The LGBT Pride Move­ment began at Stonewall in the sum­mer of 1969.  On June 28, a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in NYC, turned vio­lent when cus­tomers and local sym­pa­thiz­ers rioted against the police.  The riot embod­ied the mount­ing of anger and weari­ness the gay com­mu­nity felt about the police depart­ment tar­get­ing gay clubs and engag­ing in dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices, which occurred reg­u­larly dur­ing that time. And yes, it also rep­re­sented their pride. The Stonewall riot was fol­lowed by days of demon­stra­tions in NYC and was the impe­tus for the cre­ation of sev­eral gay, les­bian and bisex­ual civil rights orga­ni­za­tions.  One year later, the first Gay Pride marches took place in New York, Los Ange­les and Chicago, com­mem­o­rat­ing the Stonewall riots. The Pride move­ment was born.

Forty-five years later, there have been major strides in the rights and treat­ment of LGBT peo­ple: in nine­teen states plus D.C. same-sex cou­ples have the free­dom to marry ; we have openly gay pro­fes­sional sports’ play­ers — Michael Sam (NFL) and Jason Collins (NBA); and this month Lav­erne Cox became the first trans­gen­der woman to grace the cover of Time mag­a­zine.  At the same time, there remains much work to be done.  Just as LGBT Pride rep­re­sents a wide diver­sity of peo­ple and issues, there are a wide vari­ety of oppor­tu­ni­ties for edu­ca­tors to cel­e­brate, teach and demon­strate their pride for LGBT people:

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