President Obama has refused to issue an executive order that would have prevented federal contractors from discriminating against employees and potential employees, based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Given the upcoming election, gay activists have accused the President of valuing his own political career over the civil liberties of Americans. Tico Almeida, the founder of Freedom to Work, was quoted as saying, “This is a political calculation that cannot stand.”
Seventy-two members of Congress wrote the President earlier this month, urging him to issue to the executive order. The letter raised concern about billions of taxpayer dollars that have gone to companies that discriminate against the LGBT community. For example, DynCorp, a military contractor, was found to have permitted a hostile work environment, which led to one employee being subjected to hateful and derogatory anti-gay slurs on a daily basis. The letter also cited recent polling, which showed that 75% of the voters in the upcoming election support the protection of LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination.
In lieu of issuing the executive order, President Obama has cast his support behind ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. While the Act would achieve similar goals, President Obama’s support of it is token, at best. “There is no way the ENDA . . . will pass this Congress,” according to Winnie Stachelberg, of the Center for American Progress.
The Center for American Progress issued a paper on April 4th, which highlighted the reason’s why the ENDA is not a sufficient replacement for the executive order. The executive order would have covered the deficiencies of the ENDA, which does not apply to federal contractors with less than fifteen employees. Polling of small business owners has shown that the majority support LGBT protection and do not feel that they would be financially burdened by anti-discrimination policies. Additionally, under ENDA, LGBT individuals who suffer discrimination in the workplace must come forward and file a complaint with the EEOC. If President Obama had issued the executive order, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs could have made proactive compliance evaluations, which are a vital part of combating employment discrimination.
President Obama has largely supported LGBT rights, repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibited gays from openly serving in the military. His administration has also recently dropped legal support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which would bar federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, President Obama is yet to actually support gay marriage, which he opposed in the 2008 election.