The day before speaking at a Democratic National Committee LGBT fundraiser in New York City Tuesday (17 June), President Barack Obama had already let it be known that he was taking action on a long-simmering issue.
As the Republican-controlled House of Representatives continues to ignore the Senate-passed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Obama has finally agreed to sign an executive order that would offer some of the protections as that long-delayed legislation.
'I've directed my staff to prepare for my signature an executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,' Obama said to the crowd. 'Because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love shouldn't be a fireable offense.'
This is something he has long been pressured to do and which does not require congressional approval.
'We’ve got to keep fighting for equality in the workplace. Right now there are more states that allow same-sex marriage than there are states that prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers. Think about that.'
'Every day, millions of Americans go to work knowing that they could lose their job, not because of anything they did, but because of who they are,' Obama also said. 'That is not right. It is wrong.'
While not as sweeping as ENDA, an executive order would provide explicit, legally-recognized protections to 11 million employees who don't have them now according to a study by the Williams Institute.
It would cover approximately one-quarter of the workplace in the US.
The president had long said he preferred to that congress take action on ENDA rather than his going the executive order route.
But in the end, he feels he has no choice.
'It would be better, by the way, if Congress passed a more comprehensive law that didn’t just cover federal contractors. And we need to keep working on that, so don’t take the pressure off Congress.This seems to be a pattern these days.Everybody has just given up so much on Congress that we end up doing something through executive order. And that’s helpful, but it doesn’t reach everybody that needs to be reached. Congress needs to start working again.'
It is not yet known when Obama will sign the executive order.
Authors: Super User