Norton Introduces Bill to Protect LGBTQ, Reproductive Rights in D.C. from Federal Attack

Feb 21, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced that she will introduce legislation this week that would end the unique applicability of the federal 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.”

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.