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Public Statements

Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I understand that an amendment was negotiated to clarify the exemption provided to religious organizations in this legislation. This is Senate amendment No. 2012.

I understand that the intent of the antiretaliation provision in the legislation is to strike a balance between providing important protections for religious organizations because of their exemption under section 6(a) of pending legislation and to ensure that this provision does not undermine in any way current or future Federal, State, or local civil rights protections, such as those protections afforded under the laws of my home State of Vermont.

The language of the antiretaliation provision states clearly that nothing in the provision can be construed ``to invalidate any other federal, state, or local law or regulation that otherwise applies to an employer'' that is found exempt under section 6(a) of ENDA. As I understand it, this means that an exemption for a religious organization under ENDA does not equate to exemption from compliance with any other Federal, State, or local civil rights requirements.

In addition, this provision bars retaliation against a religious organization on the sole basis that the organization is exempt under ENDA. Application of Federal, State, or local civil rights protections to a religious organization exempt under Section 6(a) of ENDA may only be considered retaliation under Section 6(b) if the religious organization demonstrates that the application--through monitoring, enforcement or other means--is solely due to the religious organization's exempt status under ENDA.

Based on this understanding, I would like to ask Chairman Harkin if anything in that amendment would modify the important nondiscrimination provision in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that this Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier this year.

That provision was a critical component of the reauthorization, and I want to make sure that nothing here overrides what is currently the law of the land. I also want to make sure that States like Vermont can still enforce their own nondiscrimination laws for violations within their jurisdiction, regardless of whether an entity is exempt under the national ENDA legislation.


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