Since the end of the election there has been talk of a renewed push to get President Obama to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Although this push continues to pop up in a short list of priority items, it's not clear what shape it is going to take. No doubt the large national organizations that work on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues will lobby for the executive order. But what is being done to build popular support for the measure? None of the coverage provides any details.
I commend the lobbying effort and believe it is essential, but we also need to see concrete ways that the rest of us can support the call for this important step.
So we're not waiting in Tennessee. While some of our fellow Tennesseans have been focused on their secession petition , we started a petition urging the President to sign the contractor non-discrimination order.
We could use a little help spreading the word beyond Tennessee, though. If you want to help, copy and share the link. Here's the shortened version-- http://www.wh.gov/... .
We're also going to hold a rally in Nashville and possibly other Tennessee cities on December 9 to draw attention to the executive order and other issues we face in Tennessee stemming from our extremely socially conservative Legislature.
And that brings us to the reason some of us care so much about this issue in Tennessee. In 2011 the Metro Nashville Council passed a contractor non-discrimination order only to see it overturned the same year by our Legislature. Now no city or county in Tennessee can apply its non-discrimination standards to its contractors unless those standards match the protected classes already enumerated in federal or state law. In other words, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is a no-go in Tennessee.
It would be helpful to see similar action--rallies, spreading the word about the petition, etc.--in other states, particularly states that lack job protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender folks. My worry is that so much energy will be used combating the Defense of Marriage Act, which is certainly essential, that the executive order will get lost in the shuffle. That would really be a lost opportunity. It's low hanging fruit and it would help thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender folks in the South and other states where we have little hope of getting sexual orientation or gender identity added to our human rights statutes.