US Bishops Oppose Employment Non-Discrimination Act; Say It Punishes Disapproval of Gay Conduct

Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have criticized the LGBT-backed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013, which was passed on Thursday by the U.S. Senate, arguing that it punishes those who show a disapproval of same-sex sexual conduct.

"Our dignity as children of God extends to our sexuality. Being a male or a female is a reality which 'is good and willed by God,' and this complementarity is essential for the great good of marriage as the union of one man and one woman (CCC, no. 369). Sexual acts outside of marriage serve neither these goods nor the good of the person and society as a whole," Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco; and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said in a joint statement addressed to the U.S. Senators.

"Given these principles, the USCCB continues to promote the dignity of both work and marriage and to oppose unjust discrimination on any grounds, including those related to homosexual inclination or sexual identity. But we cannot support a bill, like ENDA, that does not justly advance the dignity of all workers and authentic non-discrimination."

ENDA passed by a 64 to 32 vote on Thursday, though next it will have to go to the Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives. LGBT rights groups have hailed the bill, which is aimed at preventing workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The Senate has taken a bi-partisan and historic step towards ensuring that gay and transgender Americans have the same workplace protections that give all Americans a fair shot to succeed on the job," said Tico Almeida, founder and president of the pro-gay organization Freedom to Work

"Our fight now moves to the House of Representatives where Speaker Boehner and the Republican Conference will have to decide which side of history they want to stand on. We will work with our Republican allies to push Speaker Boehner to allow this vote for the good of the country and the good of his party."

The U.S. bishops, however, have said that ENDA is not the answer to unjust discrimination, and that it rejects biological basis of gender.

In their letter, the bishops outlines five main reasons for why they oppose the anti-discrimination bill: They said that it lacks an exception for a 'bona fide occupational qualification,' which exists for every other category of discrimination except for race; it lacks a distinction between homosexual inclination and conduct and so affirms and protects extramarital sexual conduct; it supports the redefinition of marriage, which the Roman Catholic Church is against; it rejects the biological basis of gender by allowing people to choose their 'gender identity'; and punishes as discrimination the religious or moral objection to same-sex sexual conduct.

The bishops concluded by stating that although they oppose ENDA, they stand ready to work for ending all forms of unjust discrimination, including against those who experience same-sex attraction.

"We are grateful to live in this country where every group enjoys the right to hold to its beliefs, organize itself around them, and argue for them in the public square in the service of the common good," they added.