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Greg Sargent pointed out that even with GOP obstruction in the House and Senate, President Obama can still take action on gay rights:

President Obama has talked a lot lately about using his executive authority to circumvent Congress when it fails to act on pressing issues. He has also talked a lot lately about the need to do more to secure the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans.

There is one thing Obama could do right now that would marry those two goals: He could issue an executive order that would bar federal contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian, and transgendered Americans. He could do this today.

Obama and Democrats support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would end such discrimination. It has been bottled up in Congress for many years. But Obama could move right now via executive order. Though many have been demanding this action for some time now, Obama has yet to do so. - Washington Post, 2/14/13

Senator Jeff Merkley (D. OR) is leading the effort to push President Obama to sign an executive order on ENDA:

A chorus of 37 U.S. senators is calling on President Obama to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers amid increased pressure for him to issue the directive.

In a letter dated Feb. 14, first made public by the Washington Post’s Greg Sergeant, the group of 37 senators — led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) — identifies themselves as supporters of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and ask Obama to take administrative action against anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.

“Issuing an Executive Order that includes sexual orientation and gender identity is a critical step that you can take today toward ending discrimination in the workplace,” the senators write. “By expanding protections for LGBT employees of federal contractors, you would be helping to ensure that all Americans get an equal opportunity to succeed and that federal taxpayer dollars are used to support companies with the best employment practices.” - Washington Blade, 2/14/13

The 37 Senators who have signed Merkley's letter to President Obama are Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Al Franken (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Carl Levin (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), William Cowan (D-MA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Mark Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).  Merkley really knocks it out of the park with this quote:

"It's outrageous that in the year 2013, it is still legal to fire someone based on who they love," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who is the lead sponsor of ENDA in the Senate, said in statement. "The President can protect millions of workers from unfair discrimination with the stroke of a pen. I'm pleased that 36 of my colleagues have joined together to push for more equality in the workplace."

The 37 senators join 72 members of the House of Representatives and nearly 175,000 Americans who have signed a Freedom to Work petition urging Obama to "keep a campaign promise and sign an executive order to protect taxpayer money from being squandered on harassment and discrimination against LGBT Americans," according to Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work.

"An executive order from President Obama would ensure that hundreds of thousands of LGBT federal contract employees could go to work every day without fear of being fired for who they are or who they love," added Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement. - Metro Weekly, 2/14/13
The call for an executive order on ENDA even has the backing of big business:

“Corporate America continues to demonstrate that creating a level playing field for LGBT workers is a best business practice,” said the letter.

A bevy of major corporations (Microsoft, Starbuck’s, Nike, REI, Alcoa, Expedia, T-Mobile, Nordstrom) lined up behind Washington’s Referendum 74 , which legalized same-sex marriage, in last fall’s election.  The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce endorsed R-74, arguing that marriage equality would aid companies’ recruitment of talent to the Evergreen State.

“The five largest federal contractors — Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics — already have LGBT inclusive non-discrimination policies, as do the majority of the 25 largest federal contractors,” the Senators added. - Seattle Pi, 2/14/13

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 civil rights groups, is also pushing the administration sign an executive order for ENDA:
Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 210 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States, we write to urge you to build on your record of promoting equality by signing an executive order to ban federal contractors from engaging in workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Leadership Conference agrees with your recent remarks in your second inaugural address that “our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” and believes that issuing an executive order to ban federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees helps promote equality for all individuals under the law.

The Leadership Conference was founded on the principle that all individuals should be afforded equal opportunity. An executive order banning discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity would ensure that federal contractors can no longer discriminate. While many businesses and states have extended equal treatment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, a large number of federal contractors who employ millions of workers do not currently have such non-discrimination policies in place. This executive order would ensure that that there are workplaces in every state with legally binding protections for LGBT individuals. Research by the Williams Institute shows that an executive order will provide 11 million additional employees protection against sexual orientation discrimination and 16 million employees will be protected against gender identity discrimination.

This executive order would also be good for businesses and U.S. taxpayers. Most of the top government contractors already have LGBT non-discrimination policies, and they adopted them because they realize that discrimination hurts the bottom line.

The Leadership Conference strongly urges you to take executive action to prevent further workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals by issuing the executive order as soon as possible. Thank you for your consideration.


Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President

President Obama has stated his support for ENDA but wants Congress to pass it like they did with the repeal of DADT but having congress pass such legislation wouldn't be easy:

Obama decided against signing such an order last year and called on the Congress to pass broader legislation introduced by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Harkin of Iowa and Republican Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine.

However, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has stalled in the Republican-controlled House. - On Top Magazine, 2/14/13

Senator Tom Harkin (D. IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has vowed to take action on ENDA this year:

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on Tuesday said that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) “will move this year” in the Senate.

Speaking at an event at the Center for American Progress, Harkin pledged to move the bill, which has languished in Congress for more than a decade, through the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which he chairs, reported Think Progress. - San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, 2/13/13

Harkin's push for ENDA though will have problems gaining any traction with House Republicans so it has a better chance of happening this year with the President signing an executive order.  The President's office still supports ENDA but he needs to hear from you.  Contact the White House and urge the President to sign an executive order on ENDA:

(202) 456-1111

And if you want to thank Senator Merkley for leading the call for Obama to sign an executive order, you can donate to his re-election campaign here:

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 08:51 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, Milk Men And Women, LGBT Kos Community, Angry Gays, Daily Kos Oregon, and Koscadia.

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