President Barack Obama is coming under heavy criticism for deciding against signing an executive order protecting LGBT workers.
Senior Obama administration officials on Wednesday said the order which would ban federal contractors from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was not forthcoming. The order had reportedly already been approved by the Departments of Labor and Justice.
On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted that the president does support such protections but would prefer to see Congress approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) sponsored by Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley. ENDA, however, has little chance of passage in the Republican-controlled House.
“The president is committed to securing equal rights for LGBT Americans, and that is why he has long supported ENDA,” Carney said. “The approach we’re taking at this time is try to build support for passage of this legislation, a comprehensive approach, to legislate on the issue of non-discrimination.”
Speaking on SiriusXM’s OutQ, Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, criticized the administration’s arguments as “weak,” The Huffington Post reported.
“It was weak, it was shallow, it was unpersuasive,” said Almeida, who attended a White House meeting on the decision. “It floated back and forth between different reasons. It wasn’t even consistent. There were a few younger, junior staffers who made some arguments that were just laughable. Really embarrassing.”
Democratic strategist Paul Yandura also criticized leading gay rights advocates the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) for their muted response.
“They’ve sent nothing out to their list on this,” said Yandura, a co-founder of the gay rights group GetEqual. “So, if they’re supposed to be leading on ENDA – they’re failing. … Why wouldn’t [NGLTF's] Rea Carey and [HRC's] Joe Solmonese grow a pair and come out and say ‘I’m not going to stop until you sign this?’”
Jonathan Lewis, the son of former Progressive Insurance CEO Peter Lewis, also joined the chorus, telling The Washington Post that the president “has not been able to provide a single valid reason for why he is now refusing to sign the executive order protecting LGBT workers. It has become increasingly clear that this decision is based on cowardice rather than principled leadership.”
Lewis said he would put up $100,000 of his own money to fund a We Can’t Wait campaign.