By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
A group of U.S. Senators led by Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have sent a letter to President Obama urging him to issue an executive order protecting LGBTQ people from employment discrimination. The Washington Post's Plum Line reports that thirty-seven U.S. Senators have issued a letter to President Obama urging him to issue an executive order for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) barring federal contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals. While EDNA has languished in Congress for years, Obama has not yet chosen to use his executive authority to circumvent Congress on the issue. The letter, signed by Senators from across the nation, calls for the President to live up to his recent statements about the need to secure civil rights for LGBTQ individuals as well as his right to utilize executive authority when it fails to act in a timely manner on pressing issues. The letter reads, in part:
[Y]ou are in a position to protect millions of American workers immediately by including sexual orientation and gender identity alongside long-standing anti-discrimination protections. As you know, ENDA would prohibit most workplaces in the United States from discriminating against potential and existing employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. From our perspective, ENDAâ€™s premise is simple: it would make federal law reflect the basic principle that Americans should be judged on their skills and abilities in the workplace, and not on irrelevant factors such as their sexual orientation or gender identity.In addition to Oregon's own Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, signatories to the letter also include Senators Tom Harkin, Patty Murray, Christopher Coons, Jeanne Shaheen, Mazie Hirono, Sheldon Whitehouse, Richard Blumenthal, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Tom Udall, Al Franken, Dianne Feinstein, Claire Mccaskill, Tammy Baldwin, Martin Heinrich, Kirsten Gillibrand, Carl Levin, Elizabeth Warren, Frank Lautenberg, Amy Klobuchar, Barbara Mikulski, Sherrod Brown, William Cowan, Mark Udall, Richard Durbin, Bernard Sanders, Charles Schumer, Brian Schatz, Mark Begich, Mark Warner, Debbie Stabenow, Benjamin Cardin, Jack Reed, Robert Casey, and Robert Menendez. Plum Line's Greg Sargent considers the potential impacts of an executive order, and why it would be such a dramatic sign of the times:
Such a move by Obama would be enormous. The American Civil Liberties Union recently argued that it could help â€œcreate a tipping point moment with employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.â€ When combined with current workplace protections on the state and federal level, the ACLU argued, an executive order of this kind â€œwould likely mean that, for the first time in history, more than half of all American workers would have legally binding workplace rights.â€ A Post editorial last year noted that such a move would extend protections to some 16.5 million employees who work for contractors that donâ€™t have non-discrimination policies that extend to sexual orientation. Obama deserves tremendous credit for ending Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell; for no longer defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court; for being the first American president to come out for gay marriage; and for using his Inaugural Address to call for full equality for gay and lesbian Americans before the law. At a time when the Supreme Court is preparing to hear cases (involving DOMA and Prop 8) that could have far reaching consequences for gay rights, an ENDA executive order would send another resounding message that the culture is changing, and would constitute another step towards making the ideal of full equality before the law a reality.Speaking of messages â€” it may be an appropriate time to contact Senators Merkley and Wyden to thank them for their bold support of an executive order for ENDA, don't you think?