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Sikhs Demand LGBT Fix, But No Nix To RFRA Law

For Immediate Release

 

April 1, 2015 (Washington, DC) – The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States, today asked lawmakers in Indiana and Arkansas to ensure that state religious freedom laws do not discriminate against the LGBT community.

In letters sent today to leaders in Indiana and Arkansas, the Sikh Coalition noted that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was signed into federal law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and originally conceived as a federal anti-discrimination measure. For this reason, the letter urged lawmakers in both states to clarify that state versions of the law “cannot be used to discriminate against people on any basis, including their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The Sikh Coalition’s letter is a unique twist to a public debate that often pits impassioned religious conservatives against equally vociferous LGBT activists without much room in the middle for religious minorities who support both religious rights and LGBT rights.

“RFRA is a lifeline for religious minorities, especially Sikh Americans,” said Rajdeep Singh, Senior Director of Law and Policy for the Sikh Coalition. “Whether it's Indiana or Arkansas -- it is wrong to discriminate against people based on what they believe, but we also cannot allow RFRA to be used to discriminate against people because of who they love.”

In recent years, the Sikh Coalition has relied on the federal version of RFRA to vindicate the religious rights of Sikhs who experienced employment discrimination, including a Sikh who was denied a job as a federal security officer with the Federal Protective Service in 2005 because of his turban and beard. The Sikh Coalition has also invoked RFRA to challenge policies that prevent Sikh Americans from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces while wearing turbans and maintaining unshorn hair and beards in accordance with their faith.

The Sikh Coalition has worked to protect clients from government acts of religious discrimination for the past 14-years. To schedule an interview with one of our legal experts or to learn more about how RFRA protects minority communities please contact Mark Reading-Smith.

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Satjeet Kaur, Development & Communications Manager (212) 655 3095, ex 84 satjeet@sikhcoalition.org
Amardeep Singh, Programs Director (212) 655-3095, ext. 83 amar@sikhcoalition.org

 

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About the Sikh Coalition

The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people. In particular, we work towards a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith while fostering strong relations with their local community wherever they may be.

We pursue our mission by:

  • Providing direct legal services to persons whose civil or human rights are violated;
  • Advocating for law and policies that are respectful of fundamental rights;
  • Promoting appreciation for diversity through education; and
  • Fostering civic engagement in order to promote local community empowerment

With a full-time staff of 10 and offices in New York City, Fremont, CA and Washington D.C., we are the most-staffed Sikh organization in the history of the United States.

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