Despite mounting pressure from LGBT advocates, President Barack Obama is unlikely to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination "at this time," according to White House official.
A senior administration official said Wednesday that while the White House would continue to engage corporate America in pushing for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a long-pending bill that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, “We do not expect that an executive order on LGBT nondiscrimination for federal contractors will be issued at this time.”
“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.
The White House’s position did not go over well with activists who have pushed an executive order for federal contractors, the largest of which are in the defense sector and have already successfully implemented such policies. Earlier today Metro Weekly reported that representatives from the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Work, the Center for American Progress, and the National Center for Transgender Equality attended a meeting at the White House with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett on the matter.
“We are extremely disappointed with this decision and will continue to advocate for an executive order from the president,” Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “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.”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said Wednesday that while ENDA remains a legislative necessity, "President Obama right now has the power to stop trans employees of federal contractors from getting fired on the job.”
“We can solve a small but important part of the problem now. What we know is that the White House is going to take a more active role in addressing anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace,” Keisling said.
Officials at both the Department of Labor, which would enforce the nondiscrimination policy, and the Department of Justice, which would be tasked with defending it against any potential legal challenges, had reportedly signed off on the executive order.
But while the administration has increasingly tested the waters on speaking out against anti–marriage equality ballot measures — Obama campaign officials have denounced such referendums in Minnesota and North Carolina as "divisive and discriminatory" — further action on core LGBT issues prior to the election appears increasingly unlikely.
In a Wednesday afternoon statement, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said, “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 [don’t ask, don’t tell],” Inouye said.