The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case may have far-reaching impact on many groups of people, including LGBT Americans — and a couple of guests on MSNBC’s Now With Alex Wagner this week shared their thoughts on just what to do about that.
Wagner spoke Wednesday with Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado regarding a new bill to be introduced in the U.S. Senate with the intent of reversing the decision’s effects, then to James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Project.
Asked by Wagner to describe the Senate bill and if it had any Republican support, Udall replied, “The minefield the Supreme Court entered through the Hobby Lobby decision is deeply concerning to me and to many Democrats here in the Senate. Senator [Patty] Murray and I joined forces to introduce what we’re calling the ‘Not My Boss’s Business’ bill,” eliciting a chuckle from Wagner as Udall continued, “that would return us to the days when, just a few weeks ago, when you didn’t need your boss’s permission when it comes to your own health care needs.”
The Hobby Lobby decision allows employers to cite religious beliefs as justification for excluding certain types of contraceptives from employee health insurance plans, and many fear it would open the door for employers to use their religion to deny coverage for other health care services or practice discrimination — including discrimination against LGBT workers.
Udall’s bill would prevent employers from disrupting coverage for any health care service guaranteed by federal law. He said he was “optimistic” that some Republicans in the Senate would support the bill but admitted he couldn’t provide any names yet.
Later in the segment, Wagner noted that several LGBT civil rights groups have recently withdrawn their support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, fearing that the bill’s broad exemptions for religiously affiliated employers would leave many LGBT workers unprotected.
Turning to her next guest, James Esseks, Wagner asked him how the Hobby Lobby ruling changed the calculus on ENDA. “It’s not so much that we think the Hobby Lobby decision by itself is going to create problems for LGBT people. We don’t think it’s going to do that … but it is accelerating, amplifying, efforts by opponents of LGBT equality to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people,” he said. “We know that there are going to be lawsuits saying that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] will be used against LGBT people and we know that it’s going to be used in a legislative context too, as an excuse to say ‘Hey, you know, look what Obama did to people of faith and we’ve got to stop that from happening here.’”
“The reason we withdrew our support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is that at the core of it, it’s got a religious exemption already in the draft of the law and that’s something that says ‘Look, the whole idea of the law is that you can’t discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity,’” Esseks continued. “But the religious exemption says some people can do that.”
Watch the entire segment below.