Commentary Magazine


Topic: discrimination

Obama Punts on Gay Rights Order

President Obama, who recently vowed to bypass the Washington gridlock by churning out executive orders, has suddenly decided he can wait for Congress to do its job, at least when it comes to controversial laws that he’d prefer not to make unilateral decisions on. The New York Times reports:

President Obama disappointed and vexed gay supporters on Wednesday with his decision, conveyed to activists by a senior adviser, not to sign an executive order banning discrimination by employers with federal contracts.

The executive order, which activists said had support from the Labor and Justice Departments, would have applied to gay, bisexual and transgender people working for or seeking employment from federal contractors. Current law does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and legislation to do so, which Mr. Obama endorses, lacks sufficient votes in Congress.

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President Obama, who recently vowed to bypass the Washington gridlock by churning out executive orders, has suddenly decided he can wait for Congress to do its job, at least when it comes to controversial laws that he’d prefer not to make unilateral decisions on. The New York Times reports:

President Obama disappointed and vexed gay supporters on Wednesday with his decision, conveyed to activists by a senior adviser, not to sign an executive order banning discrimination by employers with federal contracts.

The executive order, which activists said had support from the Labor and Justice Departments, would have applied to gay, bisexual and transgender people working for or seeking employment from federal contractors. Current law does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and legislation to do so, which Mr. Obama endorses, lacks sufficient votes in Congress.

According to Think Progress, which reportedly had a representative at the meeting, the administration “will instead study whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees require employment protections.” Fair enough, although you would think Obama would have already considered that before promising gay activists he would institute an anti-discrimination policy for federal contractors during his 2008 campaign. Or maybe he could have ordered such a study at any point during the last three years of his presidency.

Politico’s Byron Tau reports on the White House’s next plan of action:

The White House now says they will try to work on congressional legislation instead. Such legislation is not likely a top priority in a GOP controlled House.

So the White House wants to punt this off to Congress, where the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will either a.) continue to sit idle until after the November election, or b.) be used as political fodder for some partisan throw down over gay rights, and then go back to sitting idle until after the November election.

Just last month, Obama gave this statement to the Advocate: “I also support an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. But a lot of work remains, and we cannot wait for Congress to act.”

How can he reconcile that with his latest decision to wait for Congress to act? He can’t. But then, he doesn’t have to. Apparently, his campaign isn’t particularly concerned with losing the gay rights activist vote to Mitt Romney.

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