Obama announces employment nondiscrimination executive order

obamaPresident Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic National Committee LGBT Gala in New York City last night and announced his planned employment nondiscrimination executive order that will cover federal government contractors.

Obama opened his speech by toasting a newlywed couple at the dinner.

“There are other newlyweds here — Eric Johnson and Mark Parker were married a couple of hours ago,” Obama said. “They decided to make this their after-party — pretty cool. If you’ve got a glass, raise it for Eric and Mark — a lifetime of health and happiness to them.”

Obama spoke about how politics has changed over the past decade. In 2004, Republicans ran on an anti-marriage platform.

“In fact, the Republican Party built their entire strategy for 2004 around this issue,” he said.

He singled out Texas and Oklahoma for particular ridicule.

“Today, a lawmaker in Oklahoma is trying to ban all marriages rather than recognize same-sex marriage,” he said. (Laughter.) “Now, that seems a little over the top, but that’s just my opinion. (Laughter.) The Texas Republican Party’s state platform endorses gay conversion therapy in 2014. Fierce legal fights are underway to stop marriage equality from expanding any further or to prevent court rulings from taking effect.”

Finally, he announced his employment nondiscrimination executive order.

“I’ve directed my staff to prepare for my signature, an executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. (Applause.) Because in the United States of America, who you are and who you love shouldn’t be a fireable offense.”

—  David Taffet

Obama to issue executive order on workplace discrimination for government contractors

obamaBy Lisa Keen

Keen News Service

In a sudden but not necessarily unexpected gesture, the White House indicated today that President Obama has “directed his staff” to prepare an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The White House official could not say how soon President Obama intends to sign the executive order. But the news comes during Pride Month and just two weeks before the White House hosts its annual reception in celebration of Pride Month. And it comes just one day before President Obama is scheduled to be at an LGBT-related fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in New York.

It also comes as much of the nation’s attention is riveted to a escalating civil war in Iraq that threatens to provoke U.S. military response and to an “urgent humanitarian” crisis in which more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors are crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. every day.

Word that President Obama plans to sign a federal contractor executive order to protect LGBT employees spread lightning fast yesterday.

The Human Rights Campaign called the news the “culmination of six years of advocacy by the members and supporters of the Human Rights Campaign, LGBT and civil rights leaders, and allies on Capitol Hill.”

It also comes after months of mixed signals from the White House. On January 31, John Podesta, the former chief of staff to President Clinton who had just joined the Obama White House as Counselor to the President, said an executive order was “under consideration at the White House –we’re looking at that.” But then White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, on that same day, said he didn’t have any updates on “a hypothetical executive order for LGBT non-discrimination” and added that it’s “the wrong approach.” He said the president thought ENDA is “the right way to go here.”

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  David Taffet

Task Force’s Rea Carey says to keep momentum going to create more change

Rea Carey, executiove director of the Natinla Gay and Lesbian Task Force, speaks about the future of the LGBT movement at  the Creating Change conference in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, speaks about the future of the LGBT movement at the Creating Change conference in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

HOUSTON — Rea Carey expects the momentum from 2013 to carry over and encourage more change and success for the LGBT community this year in areas like immigration reform, healthcare coverage and nondiscrimination legislation.

Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called on the 4,000 people at the National Conference for LGBT Equality: Creating Change to reflect on the advances last year and fight for more in the coming months during her State of the Movement speech on Friday.

“2013 showed us and this country that the wins of 2012 weren’t a fluke,” Carey said. “The momentum is in favor of progressive change. We are here to stay, our progress will continue and we will not allow this country to turn back.”

—  Dallasvoice

LGBT leaders disappointed over what Obama did not say in speech

Obama

President Obama

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama spoke of a nation working on issues such as marriage equality and earning the respect of other nations “because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.”

But while LGBT leaders expressed appreciation for those references, most voiced considerable disappointment over what he did not say.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the president was “right to urge Congress to fix our broken immigration system this year, create more jobs, equal pay for women and the restoration of the Voting Rights Act.” And she praised his announcement to sign an executive order to increase the minimum wage federal contractors must offer their employees. But, she added, “The irony is that some LGBT federal contract workers will get a pay raise, but they could still be fired for who they are and who they love.”

“The longer the president waits, the more damage LGBT people will face,” Carey said. “Discrimination is a painful reality that is too often the lived experience of LGBT people.  The Ppresident has to act when Congress won’t.”

Tico Almeida, founder and leader of the Freedom to Work group, also expressed frustration.

“President Obama should have challenged the House Republicans to allow a vote” on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Almeida said. “It’s disappointing that he has still not included LGBT workplace protections among the issues he will handle through executive order as part of his ‘year of action.’ Both ENDA and the LGBT executive order would have fit perfectly into the themes of this address.” 

Lorri Jean, executive director of the nation’s largest LGBT community center and health facility, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, praised Obama for saying “many important things about equality, or the lack thereof.” But she, too, noted he said “nothing about the fact that no federal law protects LGBT people from employment discrimination, let alone equally harmful forms of discrimination.” 

The White House did issue to reporters a long supplemental statement in conjunction with the State of the Union address, and that statement did note that, “Today, federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and disability.”

“It’s time to add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list, so that no American worker can lose his or her job simply because of who they are or who they love,” said the statement. “The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would provide strong federal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.  Last year, a bipartisan majority of the Senate passed ENDA, and the President renews his call for the House to do the same.”

But Jean said, “I’d be happier with [the supplemental statement] if it came last week or even next week” rather than in conjunction with the State of the Union address.

“It’s almost as if he didn’t dare to say it when the whole country was watching, but they put it out to quell any criticism from our community,” said Jean. “It just seems odd.” 

Asked to respond, the White House said, “The State of the Union isn’t a comprehensive list of all of the President’s positions or priorities.  The President has long supported ENDA, and its inclusion in our fact sheet reflects the president’s belief that Congress needs to act.  It’s time to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected by federal law against employment discrimination. No American worker should lose his or her job simply because of who they are or who they love. Last year, a bipartisan majority of the Senate passed ENDA, and the president renews his call for the House to do the same.”

Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, was unimpressed with the president’s speech, calling it “more of the same.” He, too, dinged the president’s speech for what it lacked.

While the president’s calls for a more equal nation are welcome, there is a profound irony in the absence of any mention of [ENDA],” Angelo said.

LGBT activists have been, since the beginning of Obama’s first term, pressuring the White House to issue an executive order barring sexual orientation discrimination by federal contractors. Others have urged him to speak out more forcefully for ENDA.

Coincidentally, the Movement Advancement Project, in releasing its biennial assessment of the LGBT civil rights movement Tuesday, noted that the “top 50 federal government contractors (81 percent) include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies.”

Even the Human Rights Campaign, one of the LGBT community’s strongest supporters of Obama, could not hide its disappointment.

“The President’s message tonight failed to address the needs of LGBT workers looking for a fair shake in this economy,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement issued after the address. “Not only was there no call for the House to pass a federal law to protect LGBT workers nationwide, President Obama also sidestepped his commitment to take action where Congress has left off, leaving out an order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors. Unfortunately, President Obama missed a real opportunity to use the State of the Union to improve the lives of LGBT people by taking immediate executive action to address anti-LGBT discrimination for the millions of Americans employed by federal contractors.”

As in past years, Obama included an openly gay person among the special guests joining the first lady in the House gallery during the State of the Union address. Tuesday night it was Jason Collins, the National Basketball Association player who, last year, became the first male player in a major American team sport to come out as gay.

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

—  Steve Ramos

UCLA releases report that shows need for ENDA passage

endaUCLA’s Williams Institute issued a report Thursday that highlights the need for federal legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was first introduced in1994 and has been brought up several times in Congress, but it didn’t go anywhere. Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate approved the measure, but it faces tough odds in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House Speaker John Boehner has said there is “no basis or need” for the legislation, and it’s not clear whether he will let the bill come up for a vote.

Currently, only 21 states have protections for LGBT employees.

Here’s a summary of the Williams Institute data that shows the hurdles LGBT people face in the workplace.

— 4%. The percentage of the U.S. workforce that identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

— 21%. That’s the percentage of LGBT employees who report having been discriminated against in hiring, promotions and pay.

— 47%. That’s the percentage of transgender employees who reported similar discrimination at work.

$0.68-$0.90. That’s how much gay and bisexual men make for every dollar earned by similarly-qualified heterosexual men.

— One out of every 25 complaints made about workplace discrimination comes from LGBT employees.

— 96%. That’s the percentage of Fortune 500 companies that have LGBT workplace protections who say such policies have boosted their businesses. Fortune 500 executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, have said such workplace policies boost productivity, increase retention rates and and attract talent.

 

—  Steve Ramos

ENDA passes U.S. Senate

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 1.20.25 PMThe Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate 64–32 Thursday afternoon. Four senators were absent.

Republicans Orrin Hatch and John McCain were among the Republicans who voted for the bill that would forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Both Texas senators voted against the bill.

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett encouraged the Senate to vote for the bill.

“A majority of Americans assume there is a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. There’s not, and that’s exactly why this is so important,” she wrote in a press release. “It’s not just civil rights advocates who support ENDA. Business leaders know that prohibiting employment discrimination is good for business. Inclusive workplaces attract the best and brightest employees, and improve their bottom line.”

GetEqual spokeswoman Heather Cronk wrote, “Today’s passage of ENDA is, indeed, a historic moment for our community and our allies.”

But she said the bill had flaws.

“The broad religious exemptions in the bill cemented into law the very biases that the legislation was intended to overcome,” she wrote.

The bill now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives. President Barack Obama has said he will sign the bill into law.

—  David Taffet

Obama makes pitch for gay rights bill

Unknown-2

President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON — The Senate is set to vote Monday on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a day after President Barack Obama blogged in the Huffington Post, encouraging Congress to pass the measure.

Obama wrote that while Americans can’t lose their jobs because of race, religion, gender or disability, “in many states a person can be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Yahoo News reported.

ENDA would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It’s offensive. It’s wrong,” Obama wrote. “And it needs to stop, because in the United States of America, who you are and you love should never be a fireable offense.”

The same legislation failed by a single vote, 50-49, the last time it was considered by the Senate in 1996, the Washington Post reports. Along with 55 Democratic senators, the bill currently has the support of at least four Republicans.

—  Steve Ramos

Appeals court dismisses suit accusing AG’s office of anti-gay discrimination

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

A state appeals court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit accusing Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office of anti-gay employment discrimination.

In February 2009, Vic Gardner resigned from his job at a Tyler call center run by the AG’s office, where he’d worked for about three years, alleging a hostile work environment.

Gardner received excellent performance reviews until an office costume party, where his supervisor concluded he was gay, according to his lawsuit. Once the supervisor determined Gardner was gay, he was repeatedly disciplined until he resigned.

In dismissing Gardner’s case, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals said Gardner presented no evidence he was dismissed from the job and not enough evidence of a hostile work environment. The court said Gardner presented no evidence he was demoted, lost job responsibilities or was given a choice of being fired or quitting.

—  David Taffet

Gay discrimination claim against Exxon advances; Resource Center sends letter

Almeida.Tico

Tico Almeida

The Illinois Department of Human Rights has agreed to investigate a discrimination claim against ExxonMobil brought by the group Freedom to Work.

The Illinois department said the investigation would take up to a year.

Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work, said his group brought the charges in Illinois because that state has some of the country’s strongest protections based on sexual orientation.

In May, the organization sent similar resumes to ExxonMobil for an open position. The difference was that one applicant was lesbian while the other was straight and slightly less qualified. The company contacted the straight woman and held the job open for her even when she didn’t respond. The more qualified lesbian candidate was never contacted.

Locally, Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center Dallas, sent a letter this week to two ExxonMobil executives — Malcolm Farrant, vice president of human resources, and David Rosenthal, vice president of investor relations and board secretary. Last year, she met with them along with LGBT executives from Dallas-area Fortune 500 companies to discuss implementing nondiscrimination policies.

“As most of my subsequent inquiries to you have gone unanswered, I am writing today to see where things stand on the matters that were discussed,” she wrote.

She references the recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and bipartisan Senate committee approval of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this week.

Cox’s full letter is below:

—  David Taffet

WATCH: 6 Texas activists arrested at ENDA protest in Boehner’s office

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 12.25.42 PM

Three members of GetEQUAL in Speaker John Boehner’s office.

Eight members of GetEQUAL were arrested outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner this morning, including six from Texas.

The group wants Boehner to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to the House floor for a vote. The other two arrested were from Ohio, which also has no statewide LGBT employment protections.

According to Texas GetEQUAL organizer Michael Diviesti, those arrested were Tiffani Bishop, Austin; Koby Ozias, Corpus Christi; Carey Dunn, Austin; Erin Jennings, San Antonio; and Kaya Candia-Almanza and Cindy Candia. He said about 20 GetEQUAL members were in the room.

After speaking to staff members in Boehner’s office, they protested inside the office. When asked to leave, the continued their protest outside the office, where they were arrested.

Bishop was the first arrested.

The group called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to add sexual orientation and gender identity to their equal employee opportunity statements.

“It’s clear that Speaker Boehner has absolutely zero intention of supporting or moving forward the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Sean Watkins, a gay Iraq War veteran and constituent of Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement issued by GetEQUAL.

Watch video of the eight in Boehner’s office below.

—  David Taffet