On the same day that House Speaker John Boehner vowed there would be no vote to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act while he’s in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday publicly endorsed calls for an executive order to end anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace.
Asked by a Washington Blade reporter if she would back an executive order as an “interim alternative” to provide LGBTs with the workplace protections they currently lack under federal law, she replied with an emphatic, “Yes, and yes. I think it is all long overdue.” She went on to say, “And I have long in my time in Congress supported ending discrimination in the workplace for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.”
Advocates have begun pushing for an executive order to end workplace discrimination because they are aware that the U.S. House, with a hostile Republican majority, is unlikely to pass the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
There is precedent for an executive order, and while it would not be as encompassing as employment non-discrimination legislation, and certainly could not replace legislative action, it would prevent the federal government from contracting with companies lacking an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy. According to the Williams Institute the government currently contracts with 91,367 companies.
This would, of course, serve to protect only a limited number of workers, but without hope of an immediate remedy from Congress, and with individual states slow to take up LGBT-inclusive (and especially trans-inclusive) protections, an executive order — even considering its limitations in both scope and longevity — could be seen as a viable alternative in the short term and specifically could offer much needed gender identity-inclusive protections until a fully inclusive ENDA can be passed.
Watch a Video of Pelosi’s answer below (via Think Progress):
Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have also publicly supported an executive order. The Obama administration has so far remained quiet on the matter.
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