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Clinton reaffirms support for homosexual jobs bill

WASHINGTON (BP)–President Clinton has reaffirmed his support for legislation granting civil rights status in the work place to homosexuals.

Clinton, in a recent statement, said his “administration worked hard” for passage of the Employment Non-discrimination Act last year and “will continue our efforts until it becomes law.”

The bill is expected to be introduced in Congress in the first couple of weeks of May, said a spokesman for Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., a chief sponsor. The legislation is expected to be the same as versions in previous sessions of Congress, he said.

ENDA would establish homosexuality, under the category “sexual orientation,” as a classification deserving protection from discrimination in the work place in the same way race, gender, religion, national origin, age and disability are now.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics agency reaffirmed its opposition to the bill.

“Homosexuality is not an orientation,” said Will Dodson, the Christian Life Commission’s director of government relations. “Homosexuality is a behavior, and it is a behavior which does not deserve legal protection.”

The president endorsed ENDA in 1996. The Senate vote rejected it by only 50-49. Based on the 1996 election results, the Senate appears slightly more conservative on the issue this session.

Clinton announced his ongoing support for the bill after an April 24 meeting with five congressional cosponsors: Kennedy; Sen. James Jeffords, R.-Vt.; Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D.-Conn.; Rep. Barney Frank, D.-Mass.; and Rep. Christopher Shays, R.-Conn.

The president expressed agreement with the bill’s exemptions for religious organizations, the military and small businesses.

The Christian Life Commission, however, has described the religious exemption in previous versions of ENDA as inadequate to protect religious people and businesses operated by them. The CLC also has expressed serious doubts the exemption would protect SBC agencies, Christian schools, Christian bookstores and some churches. Even if the exemption provided absolute protection to such entities, the CLC has said it would oppose such a bill.