President Barack Obama recently talked about using his executive powers to circumvent Congress when it fails to act on demanding matters. Moreover, the President talked about the need to do more to secure the rights of gay and lesbian Americans.
Numerous political experts, activists and those close to the situation are calling for Obama to marry these two initiatives by issuing an executive order that would ban federal contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.
Obama and fellow democrats support the Federal Employment non-Discrimination Act to end workplace discrimination amongst the lesbian, bisexual transgender and gay community. The law, which has been stuck in Congress for a number of years, can be called to action via Obama’s executive order. And although many have demanded this action for several years, Obama has yet to file such an order.
In a sudden move to increase pressure for action, 37 U.S. Senators have sent a letter to President Obama urging him to issue the order. This call to action, which is spearheaded by Senator Jeff Merkley, is signed by the majority of the Democratic leadership including, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray.
The letter opens by saying that Obama can protect millions of American workers by including gender identity and sexual orientation rights for contracted employees in the Discrimination Act. From the Senator’s perspective, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act’s premise is basic: it makes federal law reflect the basic principle that Americans should be evaluated on their abilities and skill-set in the workplace as oppose to irrelevant factors such as gender identity or their sexual orientation.
The group of Senators also argues that issuing an Executive Order that provides discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation would provide a significant boost to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. The group feels that when combined with current workplace protections at the state and federal level, an executive order of this magnitude would create legally binding workplace rights for the majority of working Americans. It must be noted that the Senators are fighting for an executive order that provides workplace protections for those who work for contractors—currently there are no non-discrimination policies that extend to sexual orientation for individuals who work for federal contractors.
Obama has been lauded by gay rights activists and support groups for eliminating “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”; for being the first American President to openly support gay marriage; and for refusing defend the Defense of Marriage Act in Court. The group urging Obama believes the passing of an order–at a point where the Supreme Court is preparing to decide on two landmark cases—would be monumental in sending a message to the nation that the culture is shifting.