WASHINGTON, DC – A senior adviser to President Barack Obama told LGBT rights groups last week that the chief executive will not sign an executive order to ban discrimination by employers holding federal contracts. Currently, federal law does not offer protection from discrimination based upon gender identity or sexual orientation.
Valerie Jarrett, Special Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, met with gay rights activists on April 11 to inform them of the administration’s decision not to sign the executive order, which has the support of the Departments of Justice and Labor. The order would have applied to LGBT persons who are currently employed by or are seeking employment from federal contractors.
Joe Solmonese, the President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group, was an attendee of the meeting called by Jarrett. His comments afterward reflected the sentiments of most in attendance. “We are extremely disappointed with this decision and will continue to advocate for an executive order from the president,” said Solmonese. “The unfortunate truth is that hard-working Americans can be fired simply for being gay or transgender.”
The Employment Non- Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation which would ban workplace discrimination by federal contractors for LGBT individuals, is currently stalled in the Republican-controlled Congress, lacking sufficient votes for passage. The White House supports ENDA, but its decision not to sign the executive order stands in sharp contrast to many of its recent policy positions. Over the past several months, the president has signed executive orders on a number of issues, citing a “we can’t wait” approach to Republicans’ putative intransigence on certain legislation.
The president also risks alienating political supporters who so far have been willing to allow him some leverage because of his decisive action on issues such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. These same supporters have been a reliable source of campaign donations.