Thursday, April 12, 2012

Turn of Phrase - Obama Disappoints Gay Supporters

"We are extremely disappointed with this decision. The unfortunate truth is that hard-working Americans can be fired simply for being gay or transgender."

- From Joe Solmonese, president of the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. 

Solmonese was reacting to today's White House announcement that President Obama will not sign an executive order banning LGBT discrimination by employers with federal contracts. 

Some state and local municipalities, and some private sector companies and organizations, have enacted LGBT anti-discrimination requirements and policies, but with the exception of the recent repeal of Dont Ask Don't Tell, the federal government has not. This leaves gay and lesbian workers in most places completely vulnerable to discriminatory employment practices, including termination.

The Obama administration continues to proclaim its support for ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), a congressional bill that would "prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees." Unfortunately, that support has yielded nothing, as ENDA has never had enough support to pass both houses of Congress since it was first proposed in 1994.

The President's unwillingness to sign the anti-discrimination executive order, like his failure to stand up in favor of same-sex marriage, is disappointing, though not surprising. In the United States, lawmakers and politicians often do the right thing, only after the winds of change have generated a substantial enough cultural groundswell for them to safely ride through the next election. 

Maybe in his second term when the pressures of re-election have waned, President Obama will be a courageous leader on the issue of gay rights, rather than relinquish himself to the role of ardent supporter.

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