During a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Workforce hearing on federal contracts this week not one Republican speaker raised concerns regarding an executive order being used to end LGBT discrimination in federal contracting, so why is the White House still declining to sign the order?
That’s what Freedom to Work wants to know. Says Freedom to Work founder and president Tico Almeida in a press release:
“Today’s congressional hearing featured three Republican-selected witnesses, including business representatives, and not a single one of them complained about the proposal to add LGBT Americans to the Labor Department’s rules that ensure taxpayer dollars are not squandered by discriminatory contractors who allow anti-gay hostile work environments. Not a single Republican member of Congress who attended the hearing complained either. That’s because our LGBT proposal is completely non-controversial and politically safe, as shown by HRC’s polling data that 73% of 2012 likely voters favor President Obama signing the executive order promoting workplace fairness and eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover, America’s top contractors — companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon — adopted LGBT non-discrimination rules many years ago because they realize that ending harassment improves worker productivity and company profits.”
“Ever since I attended the White House meeting last Wednesday with Valerie Jarrett, White House spokesperson Jay Carney has been ducking questions from the press and making up lame excuses to justify the President’s delay in signing this executive order that Barack Obama promised four years ago he would sign if we helped elect him. I agree with the Center for American Progress and the Human Rights Campaign that President Obama should sign the LGBT order now. To quote the President’s own words, ‘We can’t wait.’”
Of course it does not necessarily follow that Republicans wouldn’t complain if Obama signed the executive order. In fact, it’s quite likely the House leadership would rebuke him like they have over a number of other issues, but this would reflect only politics and not any true sentiment on the matter because as Almedia points out above, public support is firmly behind ending discrimination.
The White House surprised many last week when it said that the administration would not be signing an executive order to bar federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the near future. A spokesperson for the White House said the president continues to support fighting discrimination and therefore wants a legislative remedy in the form of the Employment Non Discrimination Act — that wouldn’t actually prevent federal contractors discriminating but it seems the White House is saying legislative action should come first. The spokesperson also proposed a DADT repeal-style working study to assess discrimination against LGBTs in the workplace.
LGBT rights groups immediately slammed this decision, saying that it was playing politics ahead of the elections and that there is already mountains of evidence that LGBTs, and especially trans people, face extremely high levels of discrimination.
Earlier this month 72 lawmakers, with the backing of several civil rights groups, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to sign the executive order. In the letter, lawamkers highlighted several cases of LGBT workplace discrimination that demonstrate why this kind of action is necessary, including a case where a former employee at DynCorp, a military contractor profiting from billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, reported that he was a victim of sustained anti-gay harassment during his time working for the corporation.
With Rep. Jared Polis (D-COL) now openly criticizing the president in Roll Call this week, saying “Without a Congress that’s willing to pass [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], I wish the president was a little more aggressive to pursue nondiscrimination,” it seems this issue is not going away.