In 1964, the Civil Rights Act made discrimination against a class of people, African Americans, illegal. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications It is time that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA) people are afforded civil rights.

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, signed by President Bill Clinton, was a congressional response to Native American grievances concerning sacred land protections and the use of peyote in tribal rituals. It has since been used to limit government mandates regarding contraceptive coverage in health care plans for women and by businesses that want to refuse service to people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The United States is prohibited from making law regulating religion; It is known as the separation of church and state, yet since 1993, 29 states have passed so called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA). Another state, Mississippi, has passed a more extreme version of RFRA since the issuing of this statement. Religious institutions in the United States have the freedom to operate as they see fit within their institution. It is when religions are acting outside of their institution that regulation is warranted. It is the state that must guarantee constitutional rights for all people.

When debating the civil rights act before it was passed in 1964 some people used their religion to justify discrimination against African Americans. Today there are people who use their religious belief to discriminate against LGBTQIA people. Recent RFRA laws have codified discrimination specifically against LGBTQIA persons in housing, public service, and employment. Some have even gone so far as mandating which public bathroom a person must use.

These laws are unconstitutional but now they have to be fought through the court systems at great expense. The recent wave of state RFRA's are seen as a direct backlash to the right of equal marriage being decided by the Supreme Court in June of 2015.

The majority of lawmakers voting for the RF laws are Republican but there are Democrats also voting in favor of discrimination.
In 1974, the Equality Act was introduced to add sexual orientation to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This Equality Act became ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) and in July 2015 came full circle to become the LGBT Equality Act. This act offers protection in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, jury selection and military service. The LGBT Equality Act will codify sexual orientation and gender identity bias as being forms of sex discrimination which means that not only trans women will be afforded protection but cis women will be protected too. The LGBT Equality Act does not affect religious institutions in any way.

As Co-chair of the National Lavender Greens Caucus, I call on Greens everywhere to work for the cause of a democratic economic system that will meet the needs of all humans while causing no further damage to our planet. This vision naturally advances the cause of Equality. The National Lavender Greens join with other Green Party caucuses in explicitly rejecting old models of capitalism and statist socialism.

Call lawmakers, support boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in states that have legislated the right to discriminate against their citizens based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, and join The #Green Revolution. Create a nation where everyone has the freedom to pursue happiness.

Gini Lester
Co-chair, NLGC
Religious Freedom Restoration Act