EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT OF 2007
Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Madam Chairman, today, the House will consider H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007. In essence, the bill would expand the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that prohibit discrimination on the basis of color, religion, national origin and gender to include sexual orientation. As H.R. 3685 has undergone various iterations over the previous months, I have spent a considerable amount of time weighing the implications this legislation would have on our society as a whole. My gravest concerns lie with how religious institutions would be affected. The protections afforded to these groups by our country's founders have been upheld for centuries, and I would not support any legislation that would erode those freedoms.
H.R. 3685, however, provides explicit and concrete exemptions for religious institutions that are similar to the ones included in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Specifically, religious organizations, define as ``a religious corporation, association, or society; or a school, college, university, or other educational institution or institution,'' are exempted from complying with the requirements of this law. Effectively, where religious institutions are currently allowed to make hiring decisions on the basis of religion, this protection will be extended so these organizations can continue this practice. In addition, I feel strongly that non-denominational institutions, that is, religious institutions not affiliated or supported by a specific denomination, should be included in this exemption. With passage of the Miller amendment, H.R. 3685 will be adequately modified so that the hiring practices of non-denominational institutions are equally protected and will not be affected by the bill.
Given this, I intend to support the legislation pending before the House. I believe individuals should be judged based on merit and their ability to perform the tasks required rather than on perceived characteristics and unrelated biases.
One of the essential roles of the Federal Government is to protect the equal rights of individuals. H.R. 3685 is not a bill that grants special rights to a certain class of people. If this were the case, I would oppose the bill. This legislation simply protects the equal rights of individuals from workplace discrimination. Indeed, Congress is not alone in its attempt to end sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. In fact, my home state of Wisconsin has had a very similar law in place since 1982. The legislation the House will consider is an extension of this type of protection. Congress has historically acted to protect workers from discrimination and I believe H.R. 3685 meets this objective.