But his people said that he’s 100% behind the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Not exactly a profile in courage, but really — has this President, whose administration has a history rife with political homophobia — ever been on the cutting edge of any LGBT rights initiatives?
So the LGBT establishment had a closed-door meeting with White House officials to hear the smackdown today; Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly reported that attendees at the briefing were Winnie Stachelberg, of Center for American Progress; Rea Carey, of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Tico Almeida, of Freedom to Work; Joe Solmonese and David Smith, of the Human Rights Campaign; and gay Democratic lobbyists Steve Elmendorg and Robert Raben.
President Obama does not plan to sign an executive order at this time banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a statement from Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. A senior administration official confirmed the news to Metro Weekly.
“Earlier today, we were told that the Administration is not ready to move forward with a federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order at this time,” Solmonese said. “We are extremely disappointed with this decision and will continue to advocate for an executive order from the president. The unfortunate truth is that hard-working Americans can be fired simply for being gay or transgender. Given the number of employees that would be covered by this executive order, it represents a critical step forward.”
The move is a blow to advocates, many of whom had been pushing for action over the past several months. Tico Almeida, the founder of Freedom to Work, had told Metro Weeklyrepeatedly that he was confident the president would sign such an order — by this June at the latest.
Promises, promises. LGBT leaders should be used to the “Lucy with the football” routine from this administration. More, from Think Progress:
Existing studies suggest that 11 to 16 million additional employees would have gained protections as a result of the measure, since many “federal contractors do not currently have those policies, and they employ millions of workers.” Among them are Jarrod Scarbrough and Les Sewell, a gay couple who attended Monday’s Easter Egg Roll at the White House to ask Obama to sign the order. “Jarrod works for a company that the government contracts through, and we live in New Mexico — we’re actually protected, we don’t have to worry too much about being discriminated against. However, in June we’re moving to Florida where that protection, we’ll no longer have that,” Sewell explained during an appearance on MSNBC. “Without this administrative action, Jarrod could lose his job and then where would this family be?”
Equality advocates who had been working to advance the measure are asking similar questions. “Today’s news that the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors will launch a study to better understand workplace discrimination against gay and transgender Americans is confounding and disappointing,” said Winnie Stachelberg, the Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. “The President should use his executive authority to extend existing nondiscrimination requirements of federal contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity,” she added.
…The delay represents a departure for the president who committed to supporting a “formal written policy of non-discrimination that includes sexual orientation and gender identity or expression … for all Federal contractors” as a candidate in 2008 and pledged to fight for the community in 2009 and 2011. “I’m here with a simple message: I’m here with you in that fight,” Obama told the Human Rights Campaign in 2009, adding, “Nobody in America should be fired because they’re gay, despite doing a great job and meeting their responsibilities. It’s not fair. It’s not right. We’re going to put a stop to it.”
Sigh. Talk is cheap, yet our community — and the progressive community generally — was seduced by all of that beautiful equality rhetoric, and have been treated like ATMs and doormats over and over. HRC, which quite early on endorsed the President for re-election, had this to say about the fact that polling and the business community broadly support ending employment discrimination against LGBTs.
Earlier today, we were told that the Administration is not ready to move forward with a federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order at this time. We are extremely disappointed with this decision and will continue to advocate for an executive order from the president. The unfortunate truth is that hard-working Americans can be fired simply for being gay or transgender. Given the number of employees that would be covered by this executive order, it represents a critical step forward.
Ten years of HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, as well as the research of our partner organizations to include the Center for American Progress and the Williams Institute, demonstrate that there is ample rationale for this kind of order. No similar executive order has ever had this kind of extensive research or factual basis established. While we believe that further study is unnecessary, we will continue to engage with the Administration to ensure that the case is made even stronger for workplace protections.
The transgender community, disproportionately affected by discrimination when it comes to hiring, firing and harassment on the job, is again left with a big goose egg from the administration. National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling:
NCTE joins national LGBT advocates, countless numbers of businesses, and three-quarters of the public in urging President Obama to expand existing workplace protections to include trans employees of federal contractors. It’s a problem we’ve documented in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showing that 97 percent of transgender people have been harassed at work. Twenty-six percent said they were fired because they are trans or gender nonconforming.”
“President Obama right now has the power to stop trans employees of federal contractors from getting fired on the job. Of course, we also need the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but we can solve a small but important part of the problem now. What we know is that the White House is going to take a more active role in addressing anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace. But trans people and their loved ones can’t wait. We need to get this done as quickly as we can, and NCTE will continue to work with the White House to make sure that we do.”
Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress, released this statement:
Today’s news that the White House will launch a multipronged effort to address workplace discrimination against gay and transgender Americans, rather than immediately issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to have sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination polices, is disappointing.
These types of policies are supported by nearly 75 percent of Americans, many of the nation’s largest and most prominent Fortune 500 corporations, and nearly two-thirds of all small business owners, based on findings from a 2011 Center for American Progress survey.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
“Federal contractors receive billions of dollars from federal taxpayers every year, and an executive order would extend LGBT-inclusive employment protections to millions of workers. LGBT people and their families should not continue to be forced to live in fear of losing their livelihoods, their homes, their ability to provide for their families, because an employer discriminates. And employers who do discriminate certainly should not be rewarded with taxpayer-funded government contracts.
“We strongly disagree with the Obama administration’s decision to not act now. The American people have overwhelmingly supported employment protections for years, even as many do not realize that their LGBT family, friends, neighbors and colleagues are still acutely vulnerable to losing their livelihoods. It remains legal to fire or refuse to hire people based on their sexual orientation in more than half the country — 29 states; the same is true for gender identity in 34 states. Given the huge gap in statewide protections, the administration and Congress must step up to protect LGBT people and their families nationally.”
“There is a well-established record documenting employment discrimination against LGBT Americans based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Ian Thompson, ACLU legislative representative. “The ACLU continues to view this executive order as the single most important step President Obama could take this year to eradicate LGBT discrimination from our country’s workplaces. It is extremely disappointing that the administration has apparently decided to delay doing so.”