Op-ed: More Equal, Still Unprotected
Two years ago my family was invited to the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. We were so excited but could not pass up the opportunity to make an important statement while there. We chose to use our presence at the event as a means to put pressure on President Obama to sign an executive order banning employment discrimination against LGBT people by federal contractors — an executive order the president had actually promised during his 2008 campaign.
We knew our decision to hold the president accountable would be controversial. We knew it would not be popular. But we also knew how important this executive order was to the job opportunity and job security of countless LGBT workers around the nation.
A lot has changed for my family in the time since our visit to the White House. We moved from New Mexico, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, to Florida, where there is no such state-level law. I also find myself unemployed, and I am reminded of not only how tough the job market is but the extra challenges faced by out LGBT people trying to find work.
So I am reminded of the fact that this executive order, while it would not protect every LGBT worker from discrimination, would help so many who live in places where there are no legal protections. I never would have imagined sitting down to write about the continued lack of protections two years after visiting the White House — it seems like such a simple ask.
While legislation for full federal equality is not an option with our current Congress, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act sits in the House of Representatives, where, in all likelihood, it will remain for some time, I simply cannot understand why a president who has called himself a fierce advocate for the LGBT community still refuses to sign this executive order. In a year declared by the president himself as a "year of action" via executive order, the refusal to sign this particular one is particularly egregious.
One quarter of our nation’s workforce is employed by companies contracting with the federal government, meaning that the number of LGBT workers who would be positively affected by the security and peace of mind this executive order would provide is staggering. President Obama, you made a promise you have yet to keep. I teach my daughter it is important to be true to your word, and I’m sure you instill the same value in your own children. So, now that you’ve won two elections, can we finally see a signature on this executive order? It would mean the world to so many of us if you could simply sign your name — setting an important precedent, keeping your promise, and further paving the way for equality for all.
JARROD SCARBROUGH is a co–state leader of GetEqual in Florida.