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.