House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed on Thursday the idea of President Obama issuing an executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT job discrimination.
Asked by the Washington Blade if she’d back an executive order providing job protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Pelosi replied, “Yes, and yes. I think it is all long overdue.”
“And I have long in my time in Congress supported ending discrimination in the workplace for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders,” Pelosi said.
The potential executive order has been seen as an alternative to passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act while Republicans remain in control of the U.S. House.
Pelosi joins a chorus of other lawmakers who’ve said they’d support an executive order mandating that federal contractors have non-discrimination policies protecting LGBT workers. Other who’ve voiced support for this potential directive are gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) as well as Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore). Mary Kay Henry, the lesbian head of the Service Employees International Union, has also backed the potential directive.
The White House hasn’t said one way or the other whether Obama would be open to issuing the executive order. The president has supported ENDA as a means to end workplace discrimination against LGBT people.
Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, reiterated Obama’s commitment to pass ENDA as he maintained he couldn’t speak to the president’s position on taking administration action to confront LGBT workplace discrimination.
“The administration continues to examine steps the federal government can take to help secure equal rights for LGBT Americans,” Inouye said. “While I can’t speak to this specific proposal, we’ve already taken steps such as extending benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees and ensuring equal access to HUD programs, and we hope to continue making progress. The president has long supported an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”
Advocates hailed Pelosi’s endorsement of the executive order as a further step from her in the advocacy that she has sustained for LGBT people over the course of her time in Congress.
Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, was among those commending Pelosi for articulating support for the potential directive.
“While she has probably supported it in principle before, it’s exciting to see Nancy Pelosi today join the growing list of leaders who are calling on President Obama to put his words into action and issue a non-discrimination executive order which would apply to federal contractors, as President Clinton’s applies to direct federal employees,” Socarides said.
“It’s time the government stopped doing business with businesses that discriminate against LGBT Americans,” Socarides said. “We all agree, so why not put some teeth behind it.”
Tico Almeida, a civil rights litigator who served as a lead counsel for ENDA in the House Education & Labor Committee, also said Pelosi’s endorsement helps in the effort to encourage Obama to issue the executive order.
“During my time in the U.S. House working as ENDA’s lead counsel, it was clear from every meeting that I attended with Rep. Nancy Pelosi that she believes strongly and passionately that LGBT Americans should have the freedom to work without fear of harassment or discrimination on the job,” Almeida said. “Her endorsement of the ENDA Executive Order for federal contractors builds momentum for this common sense policy that will save money for the U.S. taxpayers who should not have to subsidize discrimination.”
An executive order prohibiting LGBT job discrimination could complement ENDA even after the legislation is passed. Having both the order and law in place would provide two avenues for LGBT people seeking remedies for discrimination they feel they’ve experienced in the workforce.
The directive would provide recourse through the Department of Labor while ENDA would provide recourse through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Other workers — including racial minorities and women — currently have both remedies to protect them.
Watch the video of Pelosi’s endorsement here (via Think Progress):