June 12, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
New calls for ENDA directive as White House reception approaches
Citizens Metal, Barack Obama, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama is facing renewed calls for an ENDA executive order. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The absence of federal LGBT workplace non-discrimination protections continues to rile advocates as the White House prepares to welcome members of the LGBT community for a Pride reception.

LGBT advocates told the Washington Blade days before the event they had a singular desire for what they want President Obama to say to attendees — that he’ll sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, recalled Obama’s words during the 2008 presidential campaign as he called on him to announce he’ll sign the executive order.

“It’s been five long years since he made a promise to sign it and it’s long past time it gets done,” Sainz said. “This president has done virtually everything right on issues of LGBT equality. He’s been a steadfast ally. That’s why it’s so frustrating to see time go by without his signature on an EO that would protect millions of LGBT workers nationwide.”

The executive order is considered a campaign promise based on a “yes” response that then-candidate Obama gave on a questionnaire to the Houston GLBT Political Caucus indicating he supports a non-discrimination policy for all federal contractors based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Pride reception comes as the LGBT workplace non-discrimination issue has gained prominence — even in mainstream media. Last week, Ellen Sturtz, a lesbian activist affiliated with GetEQUAL, made headlines when she confronted first lady Michelle Obama at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in D.C. and heckled her about the executive order.

Given the media interest in the confrontation last week, it’s possible advocates would pursue the same strategy — this time at an event where the president is slated to appear and one geared specifically for the LGBT community.

Heather Cronk, managing director of GetEQUAL, said her organization is planning “an action” for this week when asked whether her organization is doing something for the Pride reception. She declined to elaborate.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, offered few details via email when asked what Obama intends to say at the Pride reception.

“On Thursday, the President will deliver remarks at the LGBT Pride Month celebration at the White House,” Inouye said.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, took the liberty of crafting a speech for Obama.

“When I first campaigned for president, I promised – in writing – to take executive action preventing federal contractors like ExxonMobil from wasting taxpayer money by discriminating against LGBT Americans,” Almeida said he hoped Obama would say. “For five years you’ve waited for me to do what’s right – sometimes patiently and sometimes not. … I’m sorry we’ve moved too slowly on this promise, but the good news is I brought a pen with me today.”

As pressure mounts on Obama to sign the executive order, members of the LGBT community from across the country are slated to make an appearance at the Pride reception on Thursday.

In a statement on June 3, Daryl Justin Finizio, mayor of New London, Conn., announced on his Facebook page he was set to attend the reception along with his spouse, Todd Ledbetter.

“My partner and I are moved by this invitation and are very grateful to President Obama for doing so much to support equal rights for all Americans,” Finizio said. “We’re proud to attend and represent our progressive city and its broad and diverse community of people from different nationalities, religions and genders.”

Also slated to attend the reception is the first gay couple legally married in Michigan, according to MLive.com. Gene Barfield and his spouse, Tim LaCroix, were married in March in the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians reservation after being together 30 years. Their marriage isn’t recognized by the state itself, which has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Barfield, who marched on the White House and returned his service medals from his time in the U.S. Navy in protest of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” reportedly said he was shocked to receive the invitation.

“We’re always going to be in shock about this,” Barfield said. “The fact that there is going to be an LGBT celebration at the White House, times change, times change.”

According to Los Angeles Times, also planning to attend the reception is Rev. R. Guy Erwin, who was recently elected the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s first openly gay bishop. Bishop-elect Erwin was elected last month to a six-year term in the church’s Southwest California Synod, which includes the greater Los Angeles area.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force said she wants the president to announce at the reception he’ll issue a directive to protect LGBT employees.

“We want to see him honor Pride month by ending the daily fear experienced by millions of Americans of losing their livelihoods because of who they are or who they love,” Carey said.

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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