Executive Order Makes LGTB Workers Protected Class for Contractors
“The irrefutable rightness of your cause”
Yesterday President Obama signed an executive order granting employment protection to gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual (“GLTB”) workers to private contractors who work for the federal government.
There is no exemption for religious employers.
Activists have pushed for the Employee Non-discrimination Act (ENDA), which would make gay and “transgender” people a protected class, for years. Like other protected classes including racial minorities and pregnant women, they could not be fired if their being gay or transgender had anything to do with the reason for their dismissal.
For many reasons ranging from practical to religious, ENDA has never passed. President Obama’s executive order bypasses Congress and makes LGBT workers a protected class for any job paid with federal money (federal workers are already covered).
President Obama called on Congress to pass ENDA as he signed the order.
Telling activists he was convinced by their “passionate advocacy” and the “irrefutable rightness” of their cause, President Obama said Congress had had 40 years to enact similar legislation and that his executive order would make our government “of the people, by the people, and for the people… just a little bit fairer,” according to Reuters.
According to the Associated Press, the executive order will affect 14-28 million workers at 24,000 companies (contractors make up28 million total workers, but half live in states that consider GLTB workers a protected class in their state employment laws).
However, according to a 2011 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA, “LGTB” people make up about 4% of all Americans: (1.7%) gay or lesbian, 1.8 % bisexual, and 0.3% transgender, for a total of 9 million. As not all of them are in the workforce, they can make up only a small number of people who work for government contractors.
Most federal contractors are not religious organizations, but many religious organizations contract with the federal government to do work aiding immigrants and the poor. Most of the largest are associated with the Catholic Church.
Joshua Mercer, Political Director for CatholicVote.Org, says the lack of a religious exemption is telling. “President Obama could have easily issued this executive order for LGBT employees while maintaining a robust exemption for religious liberty,” he said in a statement yesterday.
“Once again, [he] has shown his strong hostility to religious expression in American life. In his mind, we have only ‘freedom to worship’ inside the four walls of our church. But we dare not practice ‘freedom of religion’ where we take our faith to the public square.”
Bill Donohue of The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights says it’s only the latest example of the president’s bypassing Congress. The president “said he signed [the executive order] because the bill had stalled in the Congress,” Donohue said in a statement yesterday. “Why we need the Congress at all he did not explain.”
The executive order, Donahue said, is not based on equality but on “ (a) the mad idea that sexuality is a social construction, when, in fact, it is rooted in nature, and (b) an unyielding hostility to religious liberty.”
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