President Obama will not sign an executive order barring workplace discrimination against LGBT people in the immediate future, according to reports emerging after a high-level meeting at the White House this afternoon. Among those attending 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 Elmendorf and Robert Raben, MetroWeekly's Chris Geidner reports.
HRC's Solmonese released a statement:
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 White House said it had alternative plans, though the details were not disclosed:
Of the White House effort, Stachelberg says, "The White House will instead launch a multipronged effort to better address workplace discrimination against gay and transgender Americans. However, just as Congress should pass ENDA now, the President should now use his executive authority to extend existing nondiscrimination requirements of federal contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity."
The proposed expansion of the federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order to include sexual orientation and gender identity had reportedly been approved by the Labor Department but according to Geidner, the White House is unwilling to take that step before the election.
Said White House spokesman Shin Inouye in a statement: "The President is dedicated to securing equal rights for LGBT Americans and that is why he has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The President is committed to lasting and comprehensive change and therefore our goal is passage of ENDA, which is a legislative solution to LGBT employment discrimination — just as the President pressed for legislative repeal of DADT."
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. It has been shown time and time again through research conducted by this organization and others like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Williams Institute, that gay and transgender people face disproportionately high rates of discrimination in the workplace and that policies that protect employees are also good for business and the economy at large.
Just as Congress should pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act now, the president should now also use his executive authority to extend existing nondiscrimination requirements of federal contractors to cover workers who are gay and transgender.
NOTE: MetroWeekly reported earlier that the White House would not sign an order before election day. They've updated their story and no time frame was named.