Last month, President
But there is a potential loophole in Obama's order. It leaves in place an executive order issued by President
The intent of Bush's exemption was to assure an agency affiliated with one religious denomination that it could continue to employ members of that denomination. A drug and alcohol rehabilitation program offered by a Roman Catholic agency, for instance, could favor Catholics over Methodists or Jews. The problem is that an ingenious lawyer could interpret that provision to allow a Catholic agency to fire or refuse to hire not just non-Catholics but also "bad" Catholics — such as those who marry someone of the same gender.
We don't think the Bush executive order justifies such an interpretation. The Labor Department, which is drawing up regulations to implement Obama's order, should follow the logic of federal courts that have ruled that laws against gender discrimination apply even when such discrimination is religiously motivated. The whole point of Obama's executive order is that discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people is just as odious as racial and gender discrimination. A backdoor exemption for religious contractors would dilute that powerful message.