April 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm EDT | by Lane Hudson
So much for Obama’s evolution

So much for baby steps in his evolution. On April 11, President Obama fell off the wagon of progress for the LGBT community by refusing to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing nondiscrimination policies.

During the primary campaign in 2008, when he was competing against Hillary Clinton for gay votes and gay dollars, candidate Obama pledged to support such an executive order. When asked if he would sign this executive policy, he gave a one-word answer, “Yes.”  He also reiterated his position that workplace discrimination must end on multiple occasions. This is a broken promise that the president can’t blame on Congress.

This isn’t an issue that carries any kind of political risk. The Human Rights Campaign found support from 73 percent of the public in a poll it conducted on the issue. Additionally, the Center for American Progress discovered in a separate national survey that 90 percent of those polled believed that protections already existed for LGBT workers nationwide. The same poll showed that 74 percent of Catholics support the executive order.

Many people and organizations have publicly endorsed this executive order. When the Washington Blade asked Nancy Pelosi last summer whether Obama should sign the order, she said the president’s signature was “long overdue.”  In addition, the New York Times, Washington Post, Center for American Progress, Williams Institute, Freedom to Work, ACLU, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Human Rights Campaign and nearly 80 members of Congress have called on the president to pick up his pen and get this done. A Freedom to Work petition on Change.org has more than 110,000 signatures in support of the order and counting.

The federal government doles out so many billions of taxpayer dollars each year to federal contractors that the employees of those corporations represent 22 percent of the nation’s workforce, according to Department of Labor statistics. So this executive order would cover almost 1 in 4 workers in states like Texas, Florida and Ohio, where state law does not protect against LGBT discrimination.

Advocacy organizations close to the issue expected the president to issue this executive order by June of this year at the latest. There was even a hope that it would come earlier. In a surprise move, advocates and lobbyists were informed that there would be no such order at this time at a meeting on April 11.

A source close to the White House told me, “a DADT-style study is the right way to go.” In the White House daily briefing on April 12, press secretary Jay Carney also tried to draw parallels to DADT, “I think the DADT repeal is instructive here in terms of the approach that we’re taking at this time.”

So what they are doing is trying to turn attention away from the executive order and toward ENDA, as if it’s an either-or proposition. It’s not. In fact, the two together make absolute sense. The executive order will cover such a large percentage of workers that ENDA becomes a much more real possibility. The first will help pave the way for the second.

It’s such a simple and easy proposition that the White House not moving forward boggles the mind. Aside from the ENDA bait and switch, there has been no solid reason given for postponing this action until after the election. Jay Carney took eight minutes of questions on this in the above referenced White House briefing and didn’t give any additional rationale.

Just to give perspective on how this move shifts the state of play on LGBT issues in Washington, three weeks ago, Greg Sargent reported in the Washington Post that the president’s top political advisers were debating whether he should publicly endorse marriage equality before the election. At the same time, the executive order was considered imminent. Now the imminent is postponed until after the election. This is a shift of gigantic proportions.

In short, the executive order is something the president promised, it’s really easy to do, the work for it has already been done, it enjoys broad public support, it augments existing requirements for contractors and it doesn’t cost any money.

It is so offensive that the White House has taken this position that I am considering not lifting a finger to help Obama win re-election. I was beginning to feel that the baby steps on LGBT rights were adding up and that I could be semi-enthusiastic about the president’s re-election. But with this giant leap backwards, I’ve once again become unmotivated to help. I suspect I’m not alone.

Many have called on the White House to revisit this decision. It would be wise for the president to do so. We as a community should not stand for this injustice any longer. Our fierce advocate should show just a tiny bit of fierceness and issue this executive order.

Lane Hudson is a D.C.-based communications consultant and LGBT rights activist. Reach him at tlanehudson@gmail.com.

  • You dismiss passage of hate crimes, repeal of DADT, non-defense of DOMA, and all the rest, as “baby steps,” yet characterize the decision not to do the executive order before the election as “a giant leap backwards.”

    In your admirable passion, you have lost all perspective.

    You are 100% right we deserve full equality. We will come much closer to that goal, much faster, with President Obama than with President Romney. Thus your statement that “I am considering not lifting a finger to help Obama win re-election” works +against+ our drive for full equality (and +against+ health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and +against+ choice, +against+ sensible regulation, and so much else).

    • DADT was about to be tossed out by the courts, because of a Log Cabin Republican law suit. the Democrats finally repealed it only when it was about to be ended by the SCOTUS and would no long have been a wedge issue they could use to tap the GayTm

    • Rewarding politicians for throwing us under the bus and then using rationales like yours to continue supporting them is exactly why we see the kind of partisan political games being played with our basic civil rights that we’re seeing right now. It’s because Obama and the Democrats don’t believe they actually need to earn our votes that they’re comfortable throwing us under the bus and playing the same shell game with our civil rights they’ve been playing for the last three and a half years.

      The only way it will stop is if we make it stop, if we demonstrate to this President and this Party that if we can’t count on them, then they can’t count on us. While I hesitate to quote Bush, it does ring true in this situation: They’re either with us or against us.

      There is no middle ground on protecting basic America civil rights. It’s time we taught the Democrats that there’s a price for failing to keep your promises to persecuted minorities. In the end, it will always be true: The same-sex marriage advocates may have the money, but the working class always have the numbers. It’s time to prove that to these people beyond the shadow of a doubt in the clearest way possible. It’s the only way things will ever change.

    • Consider the successful political movements: They attach a political cost to denying their wishes, and if attaching that political cost means sacrificing a pawn now to achieve checkmate later, then that pawn is going to get sacrificed. Showing either side that you will support it wholeheartedly, no matter what, means that you will attach no political cost to being sold out, which in turn means that you are on the express train to political irrelevance.

    • Ah, DOMA has NOT been repealed and other than weak-as-water, courtesy remarks from Obama on the issue, this president has NOT lifted a finger to use his influence to get repeal legislation written and on his desk to sign.

    • Hi Andy Tobias! Now I know you’re feeling the heat when you recycle the same talking points on list serves, Advocate opeds and comments here at the Blade. You sure are keeping perspective!

  • Just because Lane Hudson doesn’t agree with the administration’s strategy for LGBT equality, or perhaps doesn’t understand, this doesn’t by itself mean that President Obama is wrong. To the contrary, President Obama has done more for LGBT equality than most anyone, certainly he has done more than Mr. Hudson. President Obama is correct to point out the role for Congress in enacting the Employment Non Discrimination Act. Hudson needs to do the same, especially in light of last week’s public allegations of discrimination in employment at the Library of Congress. We need for Hudson to man-up on this, lest Blade readers confuse Romney as an alternative for full equality.

    • Hi Jack. Prior to pursuing repeal of DADT, the President issued an executive order making it more difficult to discharge soldiers. Issuing this executive order now, requiring that sexual orientation be added to existing nondiscrimination policies for federal contractors is a comparable action to take. It’s also worth noting that a recent ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made gender identity and gender expression protectable under Title VII, meaning that this no longer needs to be included in the EO that we are seeking. It makes it even more inexcusable that the President has broken this promise from the campaign in 2008 and reiterated in meetings during the transition.

    • I think you’re confusing who needs to ‘man up’. Please take a look at a President who has promised multiple times to use executive power to ensure LGBT people are protected in their jobs, yet refuses to actually do it.

  • After three years [five if one counts the 2007-8 primaries] of seeing Obambots jump through hoops of disingenuousness, leap talk buildings of irrationality, and turn themselves inside out with factual distortions, “Jack” deserves some kind of gold medal for outdoing them all by implying that somehow private citizen Lane Hudson COULD have done as much for LGBT equality as President of the United States Obama if he’d only WANTED TO/TRIED. One does not know whether to laugh or weep.

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