Rebecca Juro

President Obama: Still Turning a Deaf Ear to Equality for LGBT Working Families

Filed By Rebecca Juro | March 21, 2013 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, ENDA, ENDA executive order, workplace protections

With the U.S. economy being what it is, you'd think signing an executive order to protect the rights of working class LGBT Americans would be a no-brainer for a president who campaigned for office on LGBT inclusion and equality as one of his core beliefs, but recent history has taught us that for President Obama, nothing could be further from the truth.

obama_state_of_union2013.jpgAs if simple common sense, decency, the constant pleas of the LGBT activist community, and the inclusive values Obama himself campaigned on shouldn't be enough to convince him to take action, a recent letter from 37 Democratic senators asking him to sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors has also gone unheeded by our president. Now, 110 members of the House have also added their voices to those calling for justice and equal treatment for American LGBT workers.

With all these members of Congress calling for executive action on this, a way for President Obama to protect over 20 percent of the American LGBT workforce instantly, you'd think our president would not only be willing, but anxious to use the power of his office to do so much good for so many Americans with just his signature. What we're actually seeing, however, is exactly the opposite.

Not only has Obama refused to sign such an executive order during his entire presidency, but the unbelievably lame excuse the White House has offered as the reason for his refusal defies rational examination and is nothing less than an insult to the intelligence of any American who follows our country's politics and understands how politics happens in Washington.

The White House's standard excuse for the president refusing to protect millions of LGBT workers and the families that depend on them from discrimination in the workplace is that the president is pushing for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in Congress.

As anyone who actually follows the news and the history of how bills that would protect the rights of LGBT Americans have fared in Congress knows well, hoping that the current Congress will take up and pass ENDA into law is roughly equivalent to expecting to deal with North Korea's nuclear missile capability by hoping a gigantic asteroid will hurtle down from space and take out all their missile silos.

No one who has even the most rudimentary understanding of how the current Congress operates expects that any House led by Rep. John Boehner with a Republican majority, a House that's currently spending millions of taxpayer dollars paying private attorneys to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, is going to bring up ENDA for a vote, much less pass it into law.

In addition, given the current state of gerrymandered districts in GOP-controlled states, it's pretty unlikely that we'll see a change in House leadership until at least 2020. With this current political reality, it's just not credible for the White House to argue that they're hoping that the Republican leadership and majority in the House will suddenly do a complete flip-flop on LGBT equality and pass ENDA into law.

Therefore, since we can reasonably assume that Obama and the White House staff are just as aware of these realities as we are, the only rational conclusion is that Obama has made a conscious, politically motivated choice to throw LGBT working families under the bus. The real question here, the one the White House thus far has consistently refused to answer or even address, is why.

Just who is Obama protecting by refusing to protect LGBT workers from discrimination? Whose interests does his refusal to sign this executive order actually serve? Well, you can be sure that he's pleasing the executives at ExxonMobil, the only corporation ever to get a negative rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. Anti-LGBT right-wing extremists are also probably pretty happy that Obama's doing their dirty work for them on this too, not that you'd ever see them admit it publicly.

The only interests that are really benefiting from Obama turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the inequality of American LGBT working families are those which promote the idea that LGBT people are inherently unequal to their fellow citizens who are straight and don't deserve the same protections against discrimination other Americans are guaranteed by our federal laws.

With a majority of Democratic senators and an ever-increasing number of House representatives now on board joining the already massive chorus supporting this executive order, it makes you wonder exactly what it will take for Obama to keep his promise to use the power of his office to support LGBT working families and our right as Americans to live and work free of discrimination.

It's time for Obama to remember that promises to treat harshly oppressed minority groups fairly and equally under federal law aren't just pleasant-sounding political ads intended to encourage donations and voter support at election time. Real people with real lives and the real families that depend on them are counting on those promises actually being honored and put into action.

As important an issue as marriage is, the right to marry doesn't put food on anyone's table or ensure anyone a safe and comfortable place to live. Only the ability to get and retain gainful employment can do that. It's time for President Obama to stop serving the interests of the extremist right-wing, sign this executive order, and keep his promise to use his authority protect at least some of the most vulnerable and oppressed class of American working families.


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