Legislation that would prevent employers from discriminating against workers based on sexual preference has been reintroduced into Congress after sustaining a narrow defeat two years ago. Pro-family groups oppose the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), calling it a threat to religious freedom.

The bill lost in the Senate in September 1996 by a vote of 50 to 49 (CT, Oct. 28, 1996, p. 80). But now homosexual activists believe support from moderate Republicans in the Senate makes ENDA's passage possible. Although the bill has 158 cosponsors in the House, support there remains too shallow to ensure its passage.

Kim Mills of the Human Rights Campaign says, "We need a federal law to make a level playing field," even though more and more companies are offering "gay-friendly policies."

"It's not about civil rights, it's about crushing dissent," says Robert Knight of the Family Research Council. He says the most worrisome part of the bill is the religious organization exemption. The current wording exempts religious organizations except for their commercial or for-profit activity. Knight says the wording is too weak to protect churches and Christian businesses from being forced to hire individuals in violation of their beliefs.

Currently, ten states have laws similar to ENDA.

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