September 8, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
LGBT caucus absent from jobs letter to Obama

Barack Obama (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A letter from several congressional caucuses to President Obama on the country’s high unemployment rate has a notable group absent from its list of signers: the LGBT Equality Caucus.

The caucus, which is dedicated to advancing LGBT rights, isn’t a signer of a Sept. 6 letter to Obama requesting a meeting to discuss the jobless rate in the country and possible solutions to find work for more people.

“With unemployment at 9.1 percent nationally — approaching 12 percent in the Hispanic community, 16.7 percent in the African American community and with Asian American and Pacific Islanders remaining unemployed for longer periods than any other group — we are in a national crisis,” the letter states. “We have learned throughout American history that big, bold action is required to put people back to work and promote economic growth.”

Chairs of the Congressional Asian & Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus penned their names to the letter.

But the LGBT Equality Caucus isn’t among the signers even though LGBT workers have no federal non-discrimination protections, which threatens their job security. Firing a person based on sexual orientation is legal in 29 states, while firing someone based on gender identity is legal in 35 states.

A spokesperson for the LGBT Equality Caucus didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. It wasn’t clear whether the LGBT Equality Caucus was asked to sign the letter.

An informed source said the Congressional Black and Congressional Progressive caucuses were responsible for spearheading the initiative and circulating the letter among other groups. These groups didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.

The letter was sent out days prior to the joint session of Congress on Thursday in which President Obama is set to unveil his plan to stimulate job creation. Some advocates had been hoping the speech would be LGBT inclusive and Obama would mention the lack of federal non-discrimation protections for LGBT workers.

Obama has expressed support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but the legislation has remained stalled and didn’t have a committee vote in the last Congress when Democrats controlled the U.S. House. As an interim alternative to passing ENDA, some LGBT rights supporters have been calling on Obama to issue an executive order barring the U.S. government from contracting with companies without non-discrimination protections for workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Paul Yandura, a gay Democratic activist, said he hopes that even though the LGBT Equality Caucus isn’t a signer of the letter, the group is still working to address to the lack of federal non-discrimination protections for LGBT workers.

“With the dismal to non-existent prospects for passage of LGBT priority legislation, I hope that, at the very least, they are doing everything they can to ensure that those in our community that are not the privileged class — which is most of the community — have strong advocates on their behalf in this stalled economy,” Yandura said.

The full text of the letter follows:

September 6, 2011
The Honorable Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

As chairs of the Congressional Asian and Pacific American Caucus,
Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus representing more than half of the Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, we are requesting a meeting with you regarding your upcoming speech to the nation on job creation. With unemployment at 9.1% nationally — approaching 12% in the Hispanic community, 16.7% in the African American community and with Asian American and Pacific
Islanders remaining unemployed for longer periods than any other group— we are in a national crisis. We have learned throughout American history that big, bold action is required to put people back to work and promote economic growth.

Throughout the month of August, we heard repeatedly from our constituents
and neighbors that their primary concern is the state of the economy and
chronic unemployment. The American people want us to pass emergency jobs legislation that puts our nation back to work now. Further, Americans know we cannot cut our way to prosperity. The best, most effective way to tackle our debt problem is to put people back to work.

We can stem the tide of mass unemployment and meet our long-term national commitments by being bold now. The chairs of the CBC, CAPAC, CPC, and CHC look forward to an opportunity to talk with you about proposals we would like you to consider before you address the nation this week.

Sincerely,

EMANUEL CLEAVER, II, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman
JUDY CHU, PhD., Congressional Asian & Pacific American Caucus Chairwoman
CHARLES A. GONZALEZ, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman
KEITH ELLISON, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair
RAÚL M. GRIJALVA, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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