Connect with us

National

Advocates seek Obama order barring LGBT job bias

Directive could be alternative to ENDA

Published

on

An executive order to prohibit workplace discrimination against LGBT people is receiving renewed attention now that the makeup of Congress makes passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act highly unlikely for at least two years.

LGBT rights supporters are pressing President Obama to issue a directive requiring the federal government to contract only with companies that have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity protecting their employees.

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, said an executive order for LGBT workplace protections “ought to be something the president seriously considers doing.”

“It’s definitely an administrative device the president can use to help advance the cause of full equality, especially if the Congress is unwilling to take action,” Socarides said.

Even though some companies don’t contract with the federal government, Socarides said the directive would set an example for all U.S. businesses to comply with the new rules.

“Most people are going to want to do that — whether or not they contract with the government,” he said.

Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president of communications, noted his organization has been calling on Obama to make the change since the beginning of the administration as part of a broad portfolio of proposals.

“The recommendation to issue an executive order is part of HRC’s ‘Blueprint for Positive Change,’ which includes the various policy changes that we have asked of the federal government,” Sainz said.

As it was introduced in the 111th Congress, ENDA would bar job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most situations in the public and private workforce.

An executive order on LGBT workplace discrimination could be a workable alternative now that Republicans have taken control of the House and cut into the Democratic majority in the Senate after the 2010 midterm elections, making passage of ENDA in Congress significantly more challenging, if not impossible.

Whether Obama would be willing to issue such an executive order remains to be seen. The president has called for passage of ENDA, but hasn’t voiced an opinion about an administrative action instituting workplace protections for LGBT people.

“The president continues to examine steps the federal government can take to help secure equal rights for LGBT Americans,” said White House spokesperson Shin Inouye. “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.”

Nan Hunter, a lesbian law professor at Georgetown University, said a directive protecting LGBT people would be a “terrific idea” because history has shown executive orders for non-discrimination often precede changes in law.

“I think the pertinent piece in terms of the civil rights history is that the federal contractor requirements were put in place prior to the enactment of the statutes,” Hunter said.

In 1964, President Johnson issued an executive order prohibiting most federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin — prior to the enactment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which provides similar protections in statute. Johnson’s directive could be used as a model for a directive protecting LGBT people.

Hunter said she sees no legal impediment to Obama issuing a workplace non-discrimination order for LGBT people and noted the federal government has “long had the custom” of instituting requirements for contractors that the majority of businesses don’t satisfy.

“That kind of executive order exists with regard to race, sex, religion, other protected characteristics — there is no reason why it could not be issued with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity,” she said.

Still, Hunter acknowledged that Obama may face political challenges in issuing such an order — much like the difficulties Congress had in passing ENDA — if the directive includes protections for transgender people.

“I think that’s the political concern at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue,” she said. “On the other hand, I think that it would be unfortunate — or it would be wrong, really — to have an executive order that covered only sexual orientation and not gender identity.”

An executive order prohibiting the federal government from doing business with companies that don’t have non-discrimination policies protecting LGBT people would have less reach than ENDA.

According to the Williams Institute, the federal government contracts with 91,367 companies. The percent of the U.S. workforce that these companies employ is unknown. However, the executive order that Johnson issued in 1964, which covered most federal contractors, protected only an estimated 22 percent of the civilian workforce.

Sainz disputed the notion that an administrative action for workplace protections could take the place of legislatively passing ENDA.

“It is not an ENDA,” Sainz said. “It would only apply to companies that have contracts with the federal government. We believe it to be an incredibly important step forward but would not replace a fully inclusive ENDA that would apply to all workplaces, whether they be a federal contractor or not.”

Socarides acknowledged legislation would be the preferred route to provide workplace protections to LGBT people, but said an executive order would have some reach in lieu of an act of Congress.

“It sometimes comes after congressional hearings and often, after legislative action, there’s some sense that there’s been some national consensus around it,” he said. “But absent the willingness of Congress to move on it, I don’t think it would be as effective, but it could get a lot of the job done.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

National

Vigil held after Wilton Manors Pride parade accident

Fort Lauderdale mayor expressed ‘regret’ over initial terrorism claim

Published

on

A vigil in the wake of the accident at the Stonewall Pride Parade took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — More than 100 people on Sunday attended a prayer vigil in the wake of an accident at a Wilton Manors Pride parade that left one person dead and another injured.

The vigil took place at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.

Clergy joined activists and local officials at a vigil at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 20, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

A 77-year-old man who was driving a pickup truck struck two men near the Stonewall Pride Parade’s staging area shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday. One of the victims died a short time later at a Fort Lauderdale hospital.

The pickup truck narrowly missed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was in a convertible participating in the parade, and Florida Congressman Ted Deutch.

The driver of the pickup truck and the two men he hit are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday described the incident as a “fatal traffic crash” and not a terrorism incident as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially claimed.

“As we were about to begin the parade, this pickup truck, this jacked up white pickup truck, dashed across, breaking through the line, hitting people, all of us that were there could not believe our eyes,” said Trantalis as he spoke at the vigil.

Trantalis noted the pickup truck nearly hit Wasserman Schultz. He also referenced the arrest of a 20-year-old supporter of former President Trump earlier in the week after he allegedly vandalized a Pride flag mural that had been painted in an intersection in Delray Beach, which is roughly 30 miles north of Fort Lauderdale.

“I immediately knew that something terrible was happening,” said Trantalis, referring to the Stonewall Pride Parade accident. “My visceral reaction was that we were being attacked. Why not? Why not feel that way?”

“I guess I should watch to make sure there are no reporters standing by when I have those feelings, but that was my first reaction and I regret the fact that I said it was a terrorist attack because we found out that it was not, but I don’t regret my feelings,” he added. “But I don’t regret that I felt terrorized by someone who plowed through the crowd inches away from the congresswoman and the congressman, myself and others.”

Trantalis also told vigil attendees that “I guess we forgive” the pickup truck driver.

“But I regret that his consequences resulted in the death of an individual who was innocent and who was there to have a good time, like the rest of us, and I regret there is a man who is in serious condition … fighting for his life and there,” added Trantalis.

Continue Reading

National

Police describe Wilton Manors Pride incident as ‘fatal traffic crash’

Pickup truck driver identified as 77-year-old man

Published

on

A screenshot from a video taken at the scene by Joey Spears. (Image courtesy of @pinto_spears, via Twitter.) Screenshot used with permission from South Florida Gay News.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday released additional information about an incident at a Wilton Manors Pride parade that left one person dead and another injured.

A press release notes a 77-year-old man who was “a participant who had ailments preventing him from walking the duration of the parade and was selected to drive as the lead vehicle” was behind the wheel of a 2011 white Dodge Ram pickup truck that struck the two people near the Stonewall Pride Parade’s staging area shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“As the vehicle began to move forward in anticipation for the start of the parade, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly, striking two pedestrians,” reads the press release. “After striking the pedestrians, the driver continued across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into the fence of a business on the west side of the street.”

“The driver remained on scene and has been cooperative with investigators for the duration of the investigation,” further notes the press release. “A DUI investigation of the driver was conducted on scene and showed no signs of impairment.”

The press release confirms the driver and the two people he hit are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue transported both victims to Broward Health Medical Center “with serious injuries.” The press release notes one of the victims died shortly after he arrived at the hospital.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department, which is leading the investigation, has not publicly identified the victims and the driver, but the press release describes the incident as a “fatal traffic crash.” The press release notes the second victim remains hospitalized at Broward Health Medical Center, but “is expected to survive.”

“While no arrests have been made, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department continues to investigate this incident and will not be releasing the names of the involved parties due to the status of the investigation,” says the press release. “The Fort Lauderdale Police Department asks anyone who may have witnessed this incident, who has not already spoken to investigators, to contact Traffic Homicide Investigator Paul Williams at (954) 828-5755.”

The pickup truck narrowly avoided U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was in a convertible participating in the parade. Florida Congressman Ted Deutch was also nearby.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic accident that occurred when the Stonewall Pride Parade was just getting started,” said Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus President Justin Knight in a statement he issued after the incident. “Our fellow chorus members were those injured and the driver was also part of the chorus family.”

“To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” added Knight. “We anticipate more details to follow and ask for the community’s love and support.”

Fort Lauderdale mayor initially described incident as anti-LGBTQ ‘terrorist attack’

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially described the incident as “a terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” without any official confirmation. Detective Ali Adamson of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Saturday confirmed to reporters that investigators are “working with” the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but stressed the “investigation is active and we are considering and evaluating all possibilities.”

“Last evening, at the start of what was to be a celebration of pride for the LGBT community and commemoration of our hard-won victories for equality, our community faced the worst of tragedies. The grief of our LGBT community — and greater Fort Lauderdale as a whole — is palpable,” said Trantalis on Sunday in a statement he posted to his Facebook page.

“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me. I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community. I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he added.

Trantalis added “law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job.”

“As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control,” he said. “As a result, one man died, two others were injured and the lives of two members of Congress were at risk. My heart breaks for all impacted by this tragedy.”

Continue Reading

National

ACLU and Justice Department to jointly challenge anti-Trans laws

Recently passed anti-transgender laws in West Virginia and Arkansas violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Published

on

U.S. Department of Justice, Robert F. Kennedy Building (Photo Credit: GSA U.S. Government)

WASHINGTON – In court documents filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia and in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, the U.S. Department of Justice, in Statement of Interest filings, joined the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU), arguing that recently passed anti-transgender laws in West Virginia and Arkansas violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The suits filed by the ACLU challenges an Arkansas law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth and a West Virginia law banning transgender youth from participating in school sports.

Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBTQ & HIV Project, issued the following statement responding to the Department of Justice submitting a statement of interest in two federal courts supporting transgender youth;

“Today’s filings from the Department of Justice send a powerful message that discrimination against transgender youth is not just wrong, it is also plainly unconstitutional. These filings from the Department of Justice confirm what we have been telling legislatures all year: Banning trans youth from sports and denying trans youth health care violates the Constitution and federal law. We hope that state legislatures finally get the message.” 

Law and Crime reported that in the West Virginia case filing, the Justice Dept. argued that House Bill 3293, which bans transgender athletes at public schools from competing in female sports at the middle school, high school, and collegiate level, violates both the Equal Protection Clause and  Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by the parents of transgender girl who said their daughter was unlawfully prohibited from trying out for the school’s cross-country track team because of the measure.

In Arkansas, the Justice Dept. backed an ACLU-filed lawsuit challenging a state law (Act 626) which bans gender-affirming health care for transgender youths. The DOJ also claims that state ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Law & Crime reported.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular