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President Barack Obama signs the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Time to sign, Mr. President.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has passed the Senate and is stuck in the Republican-controlled House. But there's something President Barack Obama could do to extend workplace protections to LGBT people. Just as Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, he could sign an executive order extending ENDA's protections to federal contractors. A letter now signed by 47 senators and 148 members of the House, all Democrats plus one Bernie Sanders, asks Obama to "fulfill the promise in your State of the Union address to make this a 'year of action' and build upon the momentum of 2013" by signing such an order.

Obama has said he'd prefer for Congress to pass ENDA, but the letter, circulated by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Jeff Merkley, and Tom Harkin and the House LGBT Equality Caucus, makes clear that it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition:

As we continue to work towards final passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support, we urge you to take action now to protection millions of workers across the country from the threat of discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love. We are committed to doing all that we can in Congress to get ENDA to your desk this year; however, there is no reason you cannot immediately act by taking this important step. This executive order would provide LGBT people with another avenue in the federal government they could turn to if they were the victim of employment discrimination by a federal contractor.
Even if Obama signed an employment non-discrimination order tomorrow, it would still be important for the House to pass ENDA to protect the millions of workers who don't live in states that ban workplace discrimination and don't work for the federal government. But signing the order is something that doesn't rely on John Boehner to either do the right thing or fold to political pressure, and the president should do it as soon as possible.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 12:44 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Another victory brought to us by... (0+ / 0-)

    ...being pragmatic and appeasing the right!  Yay!  Take that, Dirty Fucking Hippies!

    •  Take that hippies?? The President supports ENDA, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      freakofsociety

      why must attacks be made on the President's motivations because he wanted Congress to pass the legislation and not yet considered an executive order?

      The President may very well sign an executive order that would only limit protection for those in the federal government and not throughout the rest of society, but the fact that he has been speaking out that Congress should pass this legislation and help to ward off the potential for unequal treatment of gays, as well as women and minorities, does not mean he is against "hippies"???? The President has championed the passage of this legislation. This is an article he wrote for the Huffington Post on this issue:

      CONGRESS NEEDS TO PASS THE EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT
      Here in the United States, we're united by a fundamental principle: we're all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. We believe that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve the chance to follow your dreams and pursue your happiness. That's America's promise.

      That's why, for instance, Americans can't be fired from their jobs just because of the color of their skin or for being Christian or Jewish or a woman or an individual with a disability. That kind of discrimination has no place in our nation. And yet, right now, in 2013, in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

      As a result, millions of LGBT Americans go to work every day fearing that, without any warning, they could lose their jobs -- not because of anything they've done, but simply because of who they are.

      It's offensive. It's wrong. And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fireable offense.

      That's why Congress needs to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also known as ENDA, which would provide strong federal protections against discrimination, making it explicitly illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill has strong bipartisan support and the support of a vast majority of Americans. It ought to be the law of the land.

      Americans ought to be judged by one thing only in their workplaces: their ability to get their jobs done. Does it make a difference if the firefighter who rescues you is gay -- or the accountant who does your taxes, or the mechanic who fixes your car? If someone works hard every day, does everything he or she is asked, is responsible and trustworthy and a good colleague, that's all that should matter.

      Business agrees. The majority of Fortune 500 companies and small businesses already have nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT employees. These companies know that it's both the right thing to do and makes good economic sense. They want to attract and retain the best workers, and discrimination makes it harder to do that.

      So too with our nation. If we want to create more jobs and economic growth and keep our country competitive in the global economy, we need everyone working hard, contributing their ideas, and putting their abilities to use doing what they do best. We need to harness the creativity and talents of every American.

      So I urge the Senate to vote yes on ENDA and the House of Representatives to do the same. Several Republican Senators have already voiced their support, as have a number of Republicans in the House. If more members of Congress step up, we can put an end to this form of discrimination once and for all.

      Passing ENDA would build on the progress we've made in recent years. We stood up against hate crimes with the Matthew Shepard Act and lifted the entry ban for travelers with HIV. We ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" so our brave servicemen and women can serve openly the country they love, no matter who they love. We prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals that receive federal funding, and we passed the Violence Against Women Act, which includes protections for LGBT Americans.

      My Administration had stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that discriminatory law. Now we're implementing that ruling, giving married couples access to the federal benefits they were long denied. And across the nation, as more and more states recognize marriage equality, we're seeing loving couples -- some who have been together for decades -- finally join their hands in marriage.

      America is at a turning point. We're not only becoming more accepting and loving as a people, we're becoming more just as a nation. But we still have a way to go before our laws are equal to our Founding ideals. As I said in my second inaugural address, our nation's journey toward equality isn't complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

      In America of all places, people should be judged on the merits: on the contributions they make in their workplaces and communities, and on what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the content of their character." That's what ENDA helps us do. When Congress passes it, I will sign it into law, and our nation will be fairer and stronger for generations to come.

      We can agree that the President should go this the executive order route, and even lobby the President on the issue, but to accuse the President of some contemptible motivation like being against "hippies" or against anyone is beyond ridiculous.

      Many of the folk here who pretend to being "hippies" are actually giving hippies a bad name.

  •  Easy to do (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilJD, craigkg, atana

    There's really no good reason not to sign an EO for ENDA. It would be a very popular move and would help the economy as well.

    Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

    by Betty Pinson on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 12:51:44 PM PDT

  •  Signing such an order would help show people that (5+ / 0-)

    the sky doesn't fall when society acknowledges that LGBT people exist.  For a lot of people, particularly open minded people in red states -- the ones who THINK nobody they know is gay.

    We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

    by david78209 on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 12:51:46 PM PDT

  •  Well now John can say that ENDA really is the (0+ / 0-)

    law of the land.  That's been his excuse to this point - he said that he believes that discrimination for LGBT is already prohibited, and this will give him another opportunity to claim that it is.

  •  The problem with an executive order (0+ / 0-)

    is that you run the chance that the next Republican President will overturn it.

    Just like DATD it is better to pass a law so that you can't just overturn it on change of administration.

    Why yes there is a war on women and minorities.

    by karma5230 on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 12:55:10 PM PDT

    •  DADT not DATD (0+ / 0-)

      Why yes there is a war on women and minorities.

      by karma5230 on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 12:56:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Is that supposed to be an actual reason (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PhilJD, cybrestrike, craigkg

      not to do this?

      I'd love to see a Republican POTUS try and undo this particular executive order.

    •  Of course, but meanwhile, the real lives (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cybrestrike, craigkg, atana

      of real Americans would be improved in meaningful ways.

      If Democrats are ever in a position to pass such a law, nothing would prevent them doing so.

      When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill...

      by PhilJD on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 01:25:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  History disproves you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      atana, FogCityJohn, freakofsociety

      Since FDR's 1941 executive order barring racial discrimination by defense industry contractors, there have been not less than 13 EO's on employment discrimination by the government and federal contractors. The only ones that are not still in place are the ones superceded by subsequent, more comprehensive orders.

      And bringing up DADT really, REALLY, REALLY is not a strong point in this argument since in the compromise made in May 2010,  the Obama Administration had the non-discrimination provision dropped from the repeal provisions. While the DADT law is repealed and gone, there is no law protecting LGBT servicemembers from President Obama or some subsequent President deciding to engage in morale crushing witch hunts to root out known homosexuals and discharge them from the military, which was the standing order prior to the 1994 passage of DADT. Since there is no provision requiring the military not to discriminate, an President can order the discharge of LGBT people from the military enmass.

      Likely? No, just as it is unlikely a subsequent President would rescind the non-discrimination protections if Obama were to issue them. But, the longer Obama waits the less likely those protection are to be in place when he leaves office making it easier for Obama's successor to rescind them if that person wanted to do so.

      "Lesbian and gay people are a permanent part of the American workforce, who currently have no protection from the arbitrary abuse of their rights on the job." --Coretta Scott King

      by craigkg on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 03:29:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You don't understand DADT repeal. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      craigkg

      As some of us pointed out at the time (largely to no avail), the DADT Repeal Act does not actually guarantee that LGBs can serve in the military.  It only removed the earlier statute's ban on LGB service.  Thus, as a consequence, there is no statutory impediment to a future Republican administration banning service by LGBs.

      Many of us would certainly have liked Congress to protect LGB servicemembers from discrimination, but the nondiscrimination provisions in the legislation were stripped out at the administration's apparent request.  And the Pentagon later determined it would not adopt nondiscrimination regulations either, because they were likely to engender resentment among straight servicemembers.  (I only wish I were making this up.)

      So, the bottom line is that DADT can be overturned if the administration changes.  Nothing in the DADT Repeal Act prohibits it.

      "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

      by FogCityJohn on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 05:31:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Better to do it legislatively. (0+ / 0-)

    This EO could be reversed in three years when a new president takes power, just like a similar EO was reversed and enacted back and forth in states like Virginia. It would only apply to federal contractors, most of whom already have anti-discrimination policies.

    Pushing for ENDA to actually pass Congress is a better idea, and it could happen just like it did with VAWA.

    •  I'd much rather see the executive order now (5+ / 0-)

      and maybe watch a (possible) Republican POTUS try and undo something that protects gay people than sit around and wait for this to pass the Republican House.

      •  Look what Ken Cuccinelli once did. (0+ / 0-)

        After becoming Virginia's AG in 2010, he wasn't content with McDonnell legalizing discrimination against LGBT state employees. He sen a letter to Virginia's public universities warning them that it is illegal for them to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and that they must remove the category from their anti-discrimination policies.

        The best hope for ENDA is to throw it in as an amendment to a must-pass bill, and fight tooth and nail to keep it there. This is how hate crimes legislation passed in 2009.

        •  So because the Cooch did something... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          atana, FogCityJohn

          ...bad, President Obama shouldn't do something good? Your logic escapes me. Moreover, ENDA doesn't do some of the things that an executive order patterned after LBJ's 50 year old EO would do. Fifty years after LBJ's landmark EO, it is still in force (with slight modifications).

          "Lesbian and gay people are a permanent part of the American workforce, who currently have no protection from the arbitrary abuse of their rights on the job." --Coretta Scott King

          by craigkg on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 03:38:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I call the bluff. (5+ / 0-)

      Let a Republican POTUS sign something that explicitly permits discrimination. They'll be needing a real party autopsy after that.

      "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

      by Hayate Yagami on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 01:13:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Minimum Wage? Overtime? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      atana, FogCityJohn, freakofsociety

      Obama's EO's on the minimum wage for federal contractors and overtime pay calculations could be reversed in three years when a new president takes power. Clearly it was a mistake for Obama to have signed those executive orders. Indeed, since a subsequent President could rescind any executive order Obama makes, Obama should refrain from issuing any executive orders. See, Obama is not like any other President before him. His authority and power is significantly less than any other President in our history and any action he takes must be viewed as inherently invalid. Right? Right?

      </snark>

      "Lesbian and gay people are a permanent part of the American workforce, who currently have no protection from the arbitrary abuse of their rights on the job." --Coretta Scott King

      by craigkg on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 03:35:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "I have a pen and a phone" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilJD, cybrestrike, freakofsociety

    Once Obama said that, any delays on executive actions rested solely on him.  He should take that pen, and go as far as possible with it. Right now.

    "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

    by Hayate Yagami on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 01:12:06 PM PDT

  •  Iowan, here. Wishing Harkin was not retiring. (0+ / 0-)

    Hopes barley has balls

    ". . .as singularly embarrassing a public address as any allegedly sentient primate ever has delivered." - Charles P. Pierce

    by Rikon Snow on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 01:16:50 PM PDT

  •  how real is the "strong bipartisan support"? (0+ / 0-)

    And how real is the pressure on Boehner to bring it up for a vote?  If both of those things are real, then it might be better to keep applying the pressure rather than sign an EO, since signing a an EE might make Boehner intransigent and refuse to bring it up out of spire, removing whatever chance there is that he bring it up for a vote no matter what.

    But if the "strong bipartisan support" is bullshit, then it's better to sign the EO.

  •  Do it Mr. President. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    craigkg, atana, freakofsociety

    Do it Mr. President.

  •  Not a fan of EO (0+ / 0-)

    Although I believe ENDA should pass as legislation, I do not think I am comfortable with the power wielded by issuing executive orders to bypass legislation. What kind of precedent would we be setting? Did we elect a President or a king? If we accept the power of the President to end run around Congress now, what are we going to do when a President we don't like get's elected? After all Hitler was elected and I don't want American's getting comfortable with the idea that a President can just issue whatever EO he wants and it be the new "law of the land". As we give more power and authority to the position, we also are giving power and authority to anybody in the future who may sit in that position.

    •  Then Obama should be intellectually honest (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FogCityJohn

      Obama should rescind LBJ's Executive Order 11246 barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in governmental agencies and federal contractors and granting enforcement authority to investigate and proactively prevent discrimination to the Department of Labor. That EO, still in force after 50 years, was signed after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and is not some meaningless, superfluous piece of paper. It provides protections beyond those of the CRA of 1964 just as the EO being sought today by nearly 200 members of Congress would provide protections that are not in ENDA. Oh, and just FYI, when Reagan hinted he might rescind 11246, a veto proof majority of Congress threatened to put 11246 into law permanently. Reagan declined to call their bluff. Once an Obama EO on this subject is in place, it is very, very unlikely any subsequent President would rescind it.

      "Lesbian and gay people are a permanent part of the American workforce, who currently have no protection from the arbitrary abuse of their rights on the job." --Coretta Scott King

      by craigkg on Tue Mar 18, 2014 at 03:46:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  EO powers (0+ / 0-)

        It's one of those things that can be used for good if put into the right hands. I just always think of worse case scenarios. What if we get some twit trying to push an opposite agenda? Should we only be comfortable with executive orders when people we like are in power? In the case of EO 11246, shouldn't we make it a permanent law? Why should we be content with an EO that can be rescinded so easily in the future.

  •  There is only one thang to know (0+ / 0-)

    about today's GOP is
    are their lips moving...

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