June 29, 2011 1:18 pm ET - by Equality Matters staff
Tico Almeida, ENDA’s lead counsel in the U.S. House from 2007 to 2010, recently wrote a piece calling on the Obama administration to sign an executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. Almeida links the current demand for such an executive order with the struggle to expand workplace protections for African-Americans during the 1940s, asking President Obama to “bring this civil rights history full circle”:
Now, 70 summers after Rustin organized a national march to focus America's attention on workplace discrimination, LGBT Americans and their straight allies are calling on President Barack Obama to sign an ENDA executive order barring anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. Prominent Americans ranging from Senator Tom Harkin, the Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, to Mary Kay Henry, the openly lesbian president of America's fastest growing labor union, S.E.I.U., have all called on President Obama to sign this common sense ENDA policy.
Indeed, an ENDA Executive Order would promote the fundamental American value of equality of opportunity, as well as save money for the American taxpayers. If a federal contractor unjustly fires an aerospace engineer just because she is lesbian or just because she is transgender and then replaces that engineer with someone who is less qualified, there are two big losers: 1) the victim of the anti-gay discrimination who is out of a job; and 2) the American taxpayers who are paying for the lesser-quality services of the discriminatory federal contractor. In this weak economy and with unprecedented deficits, the U.S. Government simply cannot afford to contract with companies that irrationally fire or harass talented workers just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Based on the current administration's strong record promoting LGBT equality, I have hope that Obama will sign an ENDA executive order by Pride month of next year, or perhaps even sooner - certainly before the 2012 elections. In doing so, our nation's first African-American president will bring this civil rights history full circle, building on what Roosevelt started 70 years ago, and creating the basic workplace protections that Rustin deserved and fought for throughout his life.
As Equality Matters has previously noted, such an executive order could create significant momentum for broader legislative efforts to protect LGBT employees while establishing sustainable guidelines for federal contractors.
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