- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Jobs, housing and education rights, and a complete ban on “conversion” therapy are among the next agenda items for gay-rights groups and their allies.

There will also be a strong push-back against churches and lawmakers who want to use religious liberty as a way to escape the new laws on gay marriage, a church-state watchdog organization promised Tuesday.

“Some people want to convert the crucial principle of religious freedom into a license to discriminate against others and deny Americans essential services,” the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said at a press conference Tuesday.

“That’s a corruption of a noble concept, and we don’t intend to stand for it,” he said, announcing the group’s “Protect Thy Neighbor” project.

The project will fight legislative efforts to let businesses and even government offices use religious beliefs as “a justification to discriminate” on matters relating not only to homosexuality but also reproductive rights, such as paying for all kinds of birth control.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, said Tuesday it will turn its efforts to getting an all-inclusive federal law that protects sexual minorities — not only homosexuals but also transgender persons — in workplace, housing, education and public accommodations.

“There is an unacceptable patchwork of state-level protections for LGBT people, and more than half of LGBT Americans live in a state that lack fully-inclusive non-discrimination laws,” HRC President Chad Griffin said.

“The time has come in this country for full, federal equality, and nothing less,” he said, calling for passage of a national non-discrimination law for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Under current laws, Mr. Griffin warned, a gay couple could marry at 10 a.m., lose their job by noon, and be evicted from their home by 2 p.m., “simply for posting that wedding photo on Facebook.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat, and Rep. David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat, have told reporters they are preparing a new, comprehensive civil rights bill for later this year.

Meanwhile, Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) , told supporters that the Supreme Court’s June 26 Obergefell ruling legalizing gay marriage was but “one chapter of our march toward full LGBT equality.”

Most states do not protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity , she said. The NCLR will be “in business until we have full equality and justice in all parts of our lives.”

The NCLR has already launched the #BornPerfect campaign against “conversion” therapy, or mental health counseling to help people reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions. The NCLR says such therapy is false and dangerous and must be outlawed.

Rep. Ted W. Lieu, California Democrat, has introduced a bill to ban such therapy for all Americans. Mr. Lieu was the author of a California state law — now replicated in New Jersey, Oregon and the District — that bans state-licensed professionals from providing conversion therapy to minors. A similar bill is now before Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Meanwhile, groups like the Campaign for Southern Equality are monitoring state responses to the legalization of gay marriage.

As of Tuesday, 13 counties in Alabama were refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone, the Campaign said. This is in defiance of a July 1 ruling by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade that said all probate judges in the state must cooperate with same-sex couples seeking to marry. Two counties in Mississippi were also not complying with the ruling, it added.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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