In a blow to activists in the gay community, White House officials say that no executive order is likely forthcoming to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation among federal contractors.
“While it is not our usual practice to discuss executive orders that may or may not be under consideration, we do not expect that an executive order on LGBT non-discrimination for federal contractors will be issued at this time. We support legislation that has been introduced and we will continue to work with congressional sponsors to build support for it,” a senior administration official said.
“We are deeply committed to working hand-in-hand with the LGBT community to enlist support from key stakeholders and other decision-makers, and to continue to engage with and educate the business community and the public more broadly about the importance of employment nondiscrimination and the importance of passing ENDA,” the official said.
Activists have been pushing the White House to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity among federal contractors. One same-sex couple held a press conference right before the White House Easter Egg roll, hoping to spur the administration to action. Reports in January indicated that the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice had both approved of a draft of the order.
The White House now says they will try to work on congressional legislation instead. Such legislation is not likely a top priority in a GOP controlled House.
The decision was announced to a group of gay rights activists and organizations at a 3 PM meeting at the White House. Metro Weekly reported the attendees hailed from Center for American Progress, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Freedom to Work and the Human Rights Campaign.
Obama is under pressure from some gay activists to endorse same-sex marriage — and his refusal to address discrimination through executive order is unlikely to help him among those in the community who are hoping for a more forceful stance on equality from the White House.
“I don’t know if the White House is politically homophobic, actually homophobic, or just afraid of doing anything that might risk some attention,” Heather Cronk, the managing director of GetEQUAL.
“He’s not going to have hoards of gay folks running over and voting for Romney,” Cronk said, admitting that Obama stands little chance of losing votes to Republicans over the issue. ”The problem is that the White House is making a calculation.”
“The President is dedicated to securing equal rights for LGBT Americans and that is why he has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The President is committed to lasting and comprehensive change and therefore our goal is passage of ENDA, which is a legislative solution to LGBT employment discrimination – just as the President pressed for legislative repeal of DADT,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said.
“Earlier today, we were told that the Administration is not ready to move forward with a federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order at this time. We are extremely disappointed with this decision and will continue to advocate for an executive order from the president. The unfortunate truth is that hard-working Americans can be fired simply for being gay or transgender. Given the number of employees that would be covered by this executive order, it represents a critical step forward,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement.