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U.S. Chamber of Commerce stays neutral on ENDA

Endorsement would likely help bring more GOP lawmakers on board



U.S. Chamber of Commerce, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is neutral on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. (Photo by Almonroth; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

Amid growing support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act from companies large and small ahead of an expected Senate vote this fall, the nation’s largest lobbying group representing business and trade interests remains neutral on the legislation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s neutrality on ENDA is noteworthy in the aftermath the AFL-CIO adopting a resolution to “redouble” efforts to pass the bill.

Blair Latoff Holmes, a Chamber spokesperson, affirmed the Chamber’s neutrality on ENDA adding the organization continues conversations with supporters of the bill.

“Since ENDA’s introduction, the Chamber has been in contact with proponents of the bills, both on the Hill and off,” Holmes said. “Consistent with our prior positions on the bill, the Chamber remains neutral on ENDA.”

Holmes didn’t respond to a follow-up email asking whether any change could be made to ENDA to win the Chamber’s endorsement.

But LGBT advocates working to pass the bill say they’re happy with the Chamber’s neutrality on ENDA because the lack of interference of a powerful business lobbying group enables Republicans to support the bill.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said the neutrality of the Chamber on ENDA is “a huge victory” considering the group regularly opposes expansions of workplace protections proposed to Congress.

“It may be that the Exxon Mobils of the world, who are dragging their feet on LGBT workplace fairness are the reason the Chamber cannot get to an official ‘yes,'” Almeida said. “But regardless of the reasoning, the Chamber’s neutrality is incredibly helpful and we raise their neutrality when we speak to Republican senators, Republican members of the House and Republican staff on Capitol Hill.”

Still, Almeida said he’d like the Chamber to come out in favor of the legislation. He declined to comment on whether Freedom to Work has had conversations with the Chamber to convince the organization to support ENDA.

The Chamber was neutral on ENDA in 2007, when a gay-only version of the bill lacking trans-inclusive language came to a vote on the House floor.

Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Americans for Workplace Opportunity, said he doesn’t expect the Chamber’s neutrality to change even though many companies have now expressed support for ENDA.

“The fact that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not oppose ENDA is helpful,” McTighe said. “While we don’t expect the Chamber to alter their current position, an ever-increasing number of businesses of all sizes in the U.S. do support the legislation.”

Earlier this month, as McTighe noted, UBS and Moody’s — two leading financial services firms — joined the business coalition of Fortune 500 companies and small businesses that have come out in support of ENDA.

Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to the pro-LGBT Republican group American Unity Fund, said his group is working with members of the business community to pass ENDA when asked about his views on the Chamber’s position.

“The private sector has been leagues ahead of government on non-discrimination for years,” Cook-McCormac said. “Business and labor leaders alike both recognize that non-discrimination is not only the right thing to do, it’s the best policy for businesses that need to compete for talented individuals and want their employees focused on getting the job done instead of fearing discrimination.”

The Family Research Council didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether the Chamber’s neutrality on ENDA was helping its opposition to the bill.

Despite the general satisfaction, some LGBT advocates say an endorsement from the Chamber would bring the organization into alignment with the companies it represents and provide a much needed boost to ENDA.

Michael Fleming, executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation, which contributes funds to LGBT causes, said having the Chamber endorse ENDA would have a positive impact.

“So many companies — big and small — are on the record supporting policies like ENDA, because they know they’re both the right thing to do and good for their bottom lines,” Fleming said. “Having the Chamber endorse ENDA would likely reflect the internal policies of their members. It would also, I think, move some members of Congress from considering supporting ENDA to fully and publicly endorsing the bill.”

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said he’s comfortable with the Chamber’s current position on ENDA, but the organization could help by coming out in favor of the bill.

“Eagerness to know the Chamber’s position on ENDA comes up a lot in my meetings with Republicans on the Hill,” Angelo said. “Knowing that the Chamber is neutral on ENDA is always welcomed; having their full support would only help bring more Republican supporters to the bill.”

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WH responds to Fulton decision after odd team-up in daily briefing



After an unlikely team-up of reporters in the White House briefing room, the Biden administration responded to the ruling in City of Philadelphia v. Fulton.

A White House spokesperson responded to the the decision last week, which was narrowly decided in favor of a religious-affiliated foster care agency seeking to reject LGBTQ families, via email to the Washington Blade.

“Since day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has been committed to fighting for full equality for LGBTQ+ families, and we intend to make good on that commitment,” the spokesperson said. “It’s possible to comply with the Fulton decision while taking a strong stand against discrimination.”

The email response comes after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said incorrectly on Monday the administration had already issued a statement on the decision. The question was first posed to her in response to an inquiry from a conservative reporter, then again from the Washington Blade.

A reporter with the religious news service EWTN, in an apparent attempt to make Biden look bad on the issue of religious freedom, asked Psaki for a response to the decision.

“I think we had issued a reaction to it,” Psaki said, even though the White House has made no official statement. “I don’t have anything more to it, but I have to move on.”

The EWTN reporter later interjected in the middle of the briefing a question about the supposed inconsistency of President Biden’s Catholic faith and his support for abortion rights.

The Blade, after being called on by Psaki, pointed out the White House has issued no reaction to Fulton, which could have significant impact on the ability of LGBTQ couples to adopt and foster children. Asked whether Biden was briefed on the ruling, Psaki went back to a non-existent previous statement.

“I thought we had,” Psaki replied. “If not, I will get that to you and this gentlemen over here.”

The Supreme Court, in a rare unanimous decision, issued in Fulton a limited ruling for Catholic Social Services, which sought a First Amendment right to reject same-sex couples in foster care despite having signed a contract with the City of Philadelphia agreeing not to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

But instead of issuing a sweeping decision on the First Amendment, the Supreme Court issued a decision applying only to the context of the contract between Catholic Social Services and the City of Philadelphia. The ruling found the contract doesn’t survive the test of strict scrutiny under the First Amendment because it had exemption language not generally applicable.

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The Stonewall Inn bans Anheuser-Busch during NYC Pride weekend

“We urge Anheuser-Busch and other companies doing this to publicly commit to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ politicians”



Stonewall Inn, gay news, Washington Blade
NYC Pride 2019 passes in front of the Stonewall Inn (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

NEW YORK – In response to news that the Anheuser-Busch InBev company had made political contributions to lawmakers behind bills targeting transgender youth, the owners of the Stonewall Inn announced its ban of AB InBev products during New York City’s Pride weekend.

The historic West Village pub, widely regarded as the location of one of the seminal defining events in the history of the LGBTQ rights movement, is sponsoring a public ‘pour-out’ of Bud Light, Michelob ULTRA, and Stella Artois in front of the bar on Wednesday, June 23, to demand that the Leuven, Belgium based AB InBev stop donating to anti-LGBTQ legislators and commit to using its lobbying efforts to advance the Equality Act.

Should the Equality Act be passed, it would afford LGBTQ people with equal nondiscrimination protections under federal law.

“You can’t turn your logo rainbow on social media, call yourself an ally, and then turn around and make donations that fuel hate. There are really no excuses, and companies like Anheuser-Busch need to own up to what they’ve done,” said Stonewall Inn co-owner Stacy Lentz. “As a business owner, it’s never easy to stop selling a product that affects your bottom line — especially during the busiest weekend of the year. But I’m an activist above all else and we at The Stonewall Inn know we bear a unique responsibility to call out hypocrisy when we see it. Anheuser-Busch and other companies must do better.”

According to data from the Keep Your Pride campaign, since 2015, Anheuser-Busch has made 48 donations totaling $35,350 to 29 anti-LGBTQ legislators behind recent bills attacking trans youth. 

Through its nonprofit arm, The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, Stonewall recently launched the Safe Spaces program, which identifies and certifies entertainment venues, food and beverage locations, stores, businesses, and other public venues as Safe Spaces for LGBTQ people. Under its criteria for certification, businesses that donate to anti-LGBTQ lawmakers would not qualify for designation as a Safe Space.

“As one of our best-selling products, Bud Light has been a longtime staple here at The Stonewall Inn. It’s deeply disappointing to learn that Anheuser-Busch has given money to lawmakers who are attacking trans kids, some of the most vulnerable people in the LGBTQ community,” said Stonewall Inn co-owner Kurt Kelly.

“We’re horrified to see so-called allies supporting lawmakers who would make life harder for anyone in our community. We urge Anheuser-Busch and other companies doing this to publicly commit to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ politicians and use their lobbying power to support the Equality Act,” Kelly added.

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White House mum on whether Biden raised LGBTQ rights with Putin

Geneva summit took place amid ongoing Chechnya crackdown



President Biden on June 16, 2021, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

The White House on Wednesday did not say whether President Biden raised Russia’s LGBTQ rights record during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I told President Putin my agenda is not against Russia or anyone else; it’s for the American people: fighting COVID-19; rebuilding our economy; reestablishing our relationships around the world with our allies and friends; and protecting our people,” Biden told reporters during a press conference that took place after the summit, which took place in Geneva, ended. “That’s my responsibility as president. 
“I also told him that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal rights and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have, in our view,” added Biden. “That’s just part of the DNA of our country.” 

Biden said he told Putin that “human rights is going to always be on the table, I told him.” 

“It’s not about just going after Russia when they violate human rights; it’s about who we are,” said Biden. “How could I be the president of the United States of America and not speak out against the violation of human rights?”

Biden also told reporters the U.S. will continue to “raise our concerns about cases like Alexey Navalny,” a Russian opposition leader who remains in jail.

Navalny last August spent weeks in a coma after he was poisoned with Novichok in the Siberian city of Tomsk. Navalny underwent treatment in Germany before he returned to Russia in January.   

“I made it clear to President Putin that we’ll continue to raise issues of fundamental human rights because that’s what we are, that’s who we are,” Biden told the reporters. “The idea is: ‘We hold these truths self-evident that all men and women … ‘ We haven’t lived up to it completely, but we’ve always widened the arc of commitment and included more and more people.”

Putin in 2013 sparked global outrage when he signed a law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors. Putin in April signed a series of constitutional amendments that, among other things, formally defines marriage as between a man and a woman in Russia.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close Putin ally, and the Kremlin continue to downplay the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya.

The State Department in February expressed concern over the fate of two Chechen brothers who were arrested in Russia and returned to their homeland, even though they had fled its anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

The Russian LGBT Network, a Russian LGBTQ rights group, said authorities in Dagestan, a semi-autonomous Russian republic that borders Chechnya, on June 10 kidnapped a bisexual woman who had sought refuge at a shelter for domestic violence survivors. Reports indicate Chechen police officers forced her into a vehicle and drove her back to Chechnya.

The National Security Council before the summit did not respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment about whether Biden planned to raise Russia’s LGBTQ rights record with Putin. A State Department spokesperson referred the Blade to the White House for comment.

Chris Johnson contributed to this article.

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