Two weeks ago, Vice President Biden announced two new executive policies related to getting more guns off the streets in the United States. The first makes it harder for Americans not eligible to buy certain types of weapons to skirt the law and get them through trusts or corporations. Under the new policy those associated with the trusts or corporations will have to undergo the same background checks as individuals to buy guns. The second policy will ban all re-importation of military style weapons back into the United States.
I applaud the president for taking these actions and using his executive authority to try to save lives. As Vice President Biden said, “The Obama administration remained committed to the pursuit of new legislation designed to reduce gun deaths.” In announcing these two new executive policies Biden also said, “We are going to get this done.” The takeaway is the administration still wants the legislation passed by Congress but is willing to use its constitutional authority to act when it realizes this Congress won’t. While many still want Congress to pass legislation proposed by the president to make it harder to buy guns without comprehensive background checks, and to again pass legislation prohibiting civilians from owning assault weapons, most acknowledge that won’t happen in this Congress. There is broad support for the president’s efforts to do everything he can with the extensive powers of the presidency.
The administration also deserves tremendous credit for continuing to act in response to the Supreme Court decision to repeal Section 3 of DOMA. The IRS made it clear that legally married same-sex couples could file joint federal tax returns no matter where they currently live. This is a huge step forward. In addition, gay spouses of retired military will get benefits, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced new policies that relate to married same-sex couples being entitled to many of the same benefits from Medicare Advantage policies that heterosexual couples receive.
The question many in the LGBT community continue to ask is: If he can act on guns and other issues why is the president so reluctant to act to ban employment discrimination against LGBT individuals who work for federal contractors? Biden made it clear in announcing the new policies on guns that the administration hasn’t totally given up on trying to work with Congress on gun control but they recognize getting anything done in this Congress is a long shot. The time has come for the administration to also accept that Congress will not act in 2013 to ban employment discrimination against the LGBT community and it must act on this issue, something Obama first committed to doing when he ran in 2008. Adding insult to injury on this issue was a recent email from Jon Carson at BarackObama.com asking us to donate to Organizing for America to get Congress to pass ENDA and telling us how much the president cares.
It is perplexing that the president is able to commit the administration to work with Congress on gun control even as he acts unilaterally but continues to refuse to do the same thing with regard to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It is time for the president to sign the executive order that by all accounts has been ready for his signature for the past year and ban discrimination against members of the LGBT community in all federal contracting.
The president was willing to move forward and evolve on marriage equality. He speaks up for the rights of the LGBT community in many speeches in front of many diverse audiences and even met with LGBT activists in Russia. But when he talks about the need for jobs and how a good job enables people to move into the middle-class he seems willing to leave out the LGBT community. With the stroke of a pen he can ensure that at least in all federal contracting, members of the LGBT community will have the same right to compete for and have protection from being fired from a job as everyone else.
The vice president can make the same statement on this that he made regarding guns. He can say that the administration will continue to work with Congress to pass ENDA, but that in the meantime, the president will do all he can to ensure that LGBT workers will have protections against being discriminated against by federal contractors.