During Pride Month, Norton Reintroduces Bill to Protect LGBTQ, Reproductive Rights in D.C.

Jun 22, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During Pride Month, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) yesterday reintroduced her District of Columbia Non-Discrimination Home Rule Act to end the unique applicability of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) to the District of Columbia. RFRA, which provides more protection for religious exercise than the First Amendment requires, applies to the federal government, the D.C. government and the territorial governments, but not to state governments. Norton’s bill would ensure the District is treated the same as states, while defending LGBTQ and reproductive rights in D.C.

“While RFRA was designed to be a shield to protect religious freedom, it is being used, as evidenced by the Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby decision, as a sword to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and women,” Norton said. “Members of Congress have used RFRA as a justification for trying – but failing – to overturn D.C. antidiscrimination laws. This bill is an important step in ensuring home rule for the District.”

Norton’s introductory statement follows.

 

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

on the Introduction of the District of Columbia Non-Discrimination Home Rule Act of 2021

June 21, 2021

 

Today, I introduce the District of Columbia Non-Discrimination Home Rule Act of 2021, which would end the unique applicability of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) to the District of Columbia.  My bill would protect the District’s right to self-government, ensuring the District is treated the same as states, and defend LGBTQ and reproductive rights in D.C.

RFRA, which provides more protection for religious exercise than the First Amendment requires, applies to the federal government, the D.C. government and the territorial governments, but not to state governments.  As RFRA does not apply to the states, under the principles of home rule, it should likewise not apply to the District.

While RFRA was designed to be a shield to protect religious freedom, it is being used, as evidenced by the Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby decision, as a sword to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and women.  Members of Congress have used RFRA as a justification for trying – but failing – to overturn D.C. anti-discrimination laws.  House Republicans have repeatedly tried since 2015 to nullify or block the District’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and their families based on reproductive health decisions, claiming, in part, that it violates RFRA.  However, it appears that no one has challenged RHNDA’s legality under RFRA in court.

My bill ensures that District residents are treated the same as residents of the states under RFRA.  I strongly urge my colleagues to support this bill.

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