Obama’s latest GLBT employment protection pledge is an empty promise.

Last week, President Obama chose not to enact an executive order that would have prohibited discrimination against the GLBT employees of federal contractors. Obama’s recent refusal is indicative of a much larger problem: the president and the government’s apparent apathy toward protecting gay workers.

Through a spokesperson, Obama said that instead of focusing specifically on the employees of federal contractors, he would try to push ENDA, or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, so that every GLBT employee in America would receive protection. Isn’t that nice?

In reality, Obama’s pledge of support for ENDA is an empty promise. For one thing, he is not going to push any GLBT issues, if he even addresses them, during an election year. By my estimation, Obama isn’t going to turn his attention, assuming he is re-elected, to any gay rights initiatives until a year from now, and that’s being optimistic. Second of all, the House of Representatives is currently controlled by Republicans, and to put it simply, something like ENDA ain’t gonna fly right now.

Moreover, the unfortunate truth about ENDA is that it was first introduced in the early 1990s, and it’s been kicked around every year in Congress since then. 2009 was a particularly bad year for ENDA as it died more quickly than usual in the House after gender identity was added alongside sexual orientation as a protected demographic. 2009 was also Obama’s first year in office, so it’s clear how much pull he has had over the issue.

Legislation prohibiting discrimination against GLBT employees has existed since 1974 — that’s almost 40 years of inaction! It frustrates me that Obama, who is arguably the most GLBT-friendly U.S. president ever, keeps pushing employee protection aside. He’s been in office for just over three years, and he has done nothing about workplace discrimination. Is it going to be three more years before there is any progress on this issue? I sure hope not.

3 thoughts on “Obama’s latest GLBT employment protection pledge is an empty promise.

  1. I like that you (especially with you being you) put the G before the L. I know it’s part of a long-ingrained man-first aspect of English and many languages (where the male term is used generically [except, curiously, with the case of farm animals: cow, chicken, etc.]), but since *some* (it doesn’t matter how many, even 1%) lesbians may identify with the word “gay”, and no gay men identify as lesbians, LGBT over GLBT never made any sense to me…

    • That crossed my mind, to be honest. I don’t really like GLBT or LGBT because both forms still leave out a lot of groups. Personally, I would prefer to use queer as the catch-all (it’s also how I truly identify). However, GLBT is so common, even straight people immediately knows what it means. The Alphabet Soup Problem (GLBT..QQIAA), as I like to call it, is worth a blog post by itself.

      • I prefer the use of queer as well, but the use of certain terms over others definitely gets complicated. I feel like what I’ve noticed within the community, particularly in the last couple of years, is a much more individualized sense of identity rather than adhering to particular “umbrella” categories. For instance, certain trans individuals might denounce others as “not speaking for them,” even though we as allies might think of them in the same way. It’s an interesting development, though it certainly creates a new challenge those outside the community/communities.

        Anyway, thanks for this piece. While I appreciate the alleged sentiment behind Obama’s decision, I think ultimately he’s being too idealistic. And I don’t necessarily believe that enacting the executive order would have been “settling” the issue, though I could see others thinking that.

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