In a lot of places in America, it is perfectly legal to fire people -- or deny them employment in the first place -- simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
With the stroke of a pen, President Obama has the power to extend protection against workplace discrimination to millions of LGBT Americans.
But rather than taking this decisive action, the President has chosen instead to do nothing.
On April 12th, the Obama administration said the President would not sign an Executive Order that would have required government contractors to adopt policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Tell the President that this is the wrong decision! And that we expect him to make good on his stated commitment to promote equal opportunity for all Americans – including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
There are 29 states in this country that have no laws protecting LGBT workers. Federal legislation that would outlaw LGBT employment discrimination -- which President Obama has endorsed -- has been stalled in Congress. But by simply issuing an Executive Order, the White House can immediately require companies that receive federal tax dollars to institute policies protecting LGBT workers.
Since last fall, the President has signed Executive Orders on a number of issues, arguing that “we can’t wait” for legislation that the Republican-controlled Congress refuses to pass. So why is it that he apparently CAN wait, when it comes to protecting the rights of LGBT Americans?
Other Presidents haven’t hesitated to use the power of the Executive Order – and unfortunately, it has always been used against the interests of the LGBT community. On April 27, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, which, among other things, required all federal agencies to fire every gay and lesbian employee they could find. And he demanded that private companies holding government contracts root out homosexuals in their businesses, as well.
In the vicious, anti-gay witch hunts that followed, thousands and thousands of LGBT Americans were hounded out of their jobs. Careers were ruined, and lives were changed forever.
The homophobic policies of the U.S. government in the 1950s established a pattern of employment discrimination that continues to this day. A recent study by UCLA's Williams Institute found that 27 percent of LGBT people said that they had been harassed at work or lost a job over the course of the past five years because of their sexual orientation.
Today, a great percentage of government work is outsourced to private companies. Those businesses are required by an existing Executive Order to prohibit discrimination based on race, national origin, or religion. But NOT sexual orientation or gender identity!
Tell President Obama the time to change this is now.
Thankfully, President Eisenhower's Executive Order of 1953 requiring private contractors to fire LGBT workers is history. But it's now time to finish the job. By issuing an Executive Order extending workplace protection to LGBT Americans, President Obama has an opportunity to make clear that the dark days of our government's officially sanctioned homophobia are finally behind us.