After months ofÂ dodging questions about the progress of an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal contracting, the White House wonâ€™t issue the directive, but will instead study whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees require employment protections, ThinkProgress has learned. The news comes after White House senior advisor Valerie JarrettÂ held a meeting with LGBT advocates to discuss the matter.
Existing studies suggest thatÂ 11 to 16 million additional employees would have gained protections as a result of the measure, since many â€śfederal contractors do not currently have those policies, and they employ millions of workers.â€ť Among them are Jarrod Scarbrough and Les Sewell, a gay couple who attended Mondayâ€™s Easter Egg Roll at the White House to ask Obama to sign the order. â€śJarrod works for a company that the government contracts through, and we live in New Mexico â€” weâ€™re actually protected, we donâ€™t have to worry too much about being discriminated against. However, in June weâ€™re moving to Florida where that protection, weâ€™ll no longer have that,â€ť Sewell explained during an appearance on MSNBC. â€śWithout this administrative action,Â Jarrod could lose his job and then where would this family be?â€ť
Equality advocates who had been working to advance the measure are asking similar questions. â€śTodayâ€™s news that the White Houseâ€™s Council of Economic Advisors will launch a study to better understand workplace discrimination against gay and transgender Americans is confounding and disappointing,â€ť said Winnie Stachelberg, the Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. â€śThe President should use his executive authority to extend existing nondiscrimination requirements of federal contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity,â€ť she added.
Earlier this month,Â 72 Congressional lawmakers urged the administration to enact the order, noting that it would â€śextend important workplace protections to millions of Americans, while at the same time laying the groundwork for Congressional passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).â€ť Data show that â€ś43 percent of LGB people and 90 percent of transgender people have experienced workplace discriminationâ€ť and that the overwhelming majority of Americans â€”Â 73 percent â€” would have supported a measure prohibiting it.
The delay represents a departure for the president whoÂ committed to supporting a â€śformal written policy of non-discrimination that includes sexual orientation and gender identity or expressionâ€¦for all Federal contractorsâ€ť as a candidate in 2008 and pledged to fight for the community in 2009 and 2011. â€śIâ€™m here with a simple message:Â Iâ€™m here with you in that fight,â€ť Obama told the Human Rights Campaign in 2009, adding, â€śNobody in America should be fired because theyâ€™re gay, despite doing a great job and meeting their responsibilities. Itâ€™s not fair. Itâ€™s not right. Weâ€™re going to put a stop to it.â€ť
This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on April 11, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
*Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions of this author are his own and not those of Workplace Fairness.
About the Author: Igor Volsky is the Health Care and LGBT Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Igor is co-author ofÂ Howard Deanâ€™s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform and has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Fox Business, Fox News, and CNBC television, and has been a guest on many radio shows. Prior to joining the Center, Igor interned with Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), hosted his own political radio show at Marist College, and edited and published a political newspaper in high school. Igor grew up in Russia, Israel, and New Jersey.