LGBT activists learned on Wednesday that President Barack Obama has no plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against their employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese; Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Winnie Stachelberg of the Center for American Progress and gay Democratic lobbyists Steve Elmendorf and Robert Raben were among those who attended a meeting with White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett to discuss the issue.
Response to the news was swift.
“Earlier today, we were told that the administration is not ready to move forward with a federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order at this time,” said Solmonese. “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.”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, echoed Solmonese.
“President Obama right now has the power to stop trans employees of federal contractors from getting fired on the job,” she said, noting the need for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. “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.”
Efforts to spur the president to issue the executive order received additional attention earlier this week when a gay couple from New Mexico wore white t-shirts that read “We can’t wait!” to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. “Given our economy, this is an absolute wonderful chance to get a little bit of information out about this executive order and hopefully get some education and a little push to get it signed,” Jarred Scarborough told the EDGE Media Network before he traveled to the nation’s capital with Les Sewell and their 8-year-old daughter Alegra.
The White House and the president’s surrogates are quick to point out the repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers and the decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court as proof of the administration’s commitment to LGBT rights. And while one can certainly make the argument that Obama is the most LGBT-friendly president this country has ever seen, yesterday’s news will only fuel growing skepticism among those who continue to have their doubts.