Obama Balks at Executive Order on Workplace Protections for Gays

Obama Balks at Executive Order on Workplace Protections for Gays

Ryan Lee, Associate Writer: News & Current Events

President Barack Obama’s administration informed gay rights leaders yesterday that he would not sign an executive order banning LGBT discrimination among federal contractors, instead opting to focus on passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Metro Weekly reports that leaders from gay rights group such as the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and Human Rights Campaign went to the White House yesterday for a meeting with administration senior adviser Valarie Jarrett. The gay activists had been pressuring Obama to sign an executive order that would expand current anti-discrimination laws for federal contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity, but they left the White House meeting “extremely disappointed.”

“Earlier today, we were told that the administration is not ready to move forward with a federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order at this time,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “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.”

Instead of signing an executive order, Obama’s administration will “launch a multipronged effort to better address workplace discrimination against gay and transgender Americans,” Metro Weekly reported.

The Washington Blade reports that not all of the gay attendees at the meeting were distressed by Obama passing on an executive order.

Democratic lobbyist Robert Raben, corroborated that advocates were told the executive order wouldn’t happen, but the goal of the meeting was more to explore ways that the administration could address workplace discrimination facing LGBT Americans — primarily through legislative means.

“For me, it was a conversation about very, very interested and committed people about what the administration could be doing to make the case for … protections of people in the employment context,” Raben said. “What could they be doing to get ENDA moving? What should they be studying and understanding and what data do they need? … So for me, it was less about the tactic of an executive order and more about can we figure out how to work together to get ENDA over the finish line?”

Raben continued he felt many advocates in attendance at the meeting “focused on an executive order,” but he doesn’t fall into that category.

“That’s not my position,” Raben said. “I don’t live and die on a particular tactic.”

An unnamed White House official told Metro Weekly:

“While it is not our usual practice to discuss Executive Orders that may or may not be under consideration, we do not expect that an Executive Order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors will be issued at this time. We support legislation that has been introduced and we will continue to work with congressional sponsors to build support for it.”

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