Weighing The Costs Of An Executive Order For Federal Contractors
May 25, 2011 6:09 pm ET by Equality Matters staff
With Republicans in control of the House, it’s unlikely that any major pro-LGBT legislation will be passing through Congress this session. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which failed to even come to a vote during the Democrat-controlled 111th Congress, has virtually no chance of passage in the near-future.
As a result, many progressives have begun weighing the potential costs and benefits of an executive order from President Obama prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation.
On Wednesday, Towleroad posted a thought-provoking back-and-forth between Ari Ezra Waldman, Teaching Fellow at the California Western School of Law in San Diego, and Tico Almedia, a civil rights litigator in DC. The two sparred over the expediency of such an executive order, the scope of presidential power, and the potential implications for economic predictability:
AEW: [W]hat the executive giveth, the executive can taketh away. So, if President Obama issues this protection, what is to prevent a future conservative president from rescinding it entirely or granting exemptions to religious business owners who claim their personal religious beliefs bar them from hiring gays?
TA: It can indeed be rescinded. But I predict a future Republican president will not rescind, but rather quietly halt all efforts to enforce the Obama policy. That way there is no public backlash. But in any event, the possibility of rescission or under-enforcement in the future isn't a sufficient reason not to push for these good-government, civil rights protections in the first place.
AEW: You admit this can just be rescinded, though. Isn't that the kind of uncertainty that the business community hates? Given their uncertainty about the EO's lasting future, could employers simply delay hiring as they wait for a conservative president to whom they donated millions? And isn't that precisely what we do not want in a bad economy.
TA: I think most of Corporate America will actually support this EO. Many Fortune 500 companies have already endorsed ENDA, which is stronger than the Executive Order. In fact, the business community is years ahead of the federal government on these issues of fairness and equality in the workplace. Big federal contractors like Boeing and Raytheon have already passed LGBT non-discrimination policies. Some of those corporate policies explicitly say that discrimination hurts their efficiency and their bottom line. I think those corporate policies are correct, and the U.S. government should follow the lead of Corporate America.
Check out the full debate here.