Monday, July 21, 2014

The Order

Last month, President Obama agreed to sign an executive order that has essentially been years in the making. He agreed to an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ workers. While it's not comprehensive, it is a step forward. And it can help fill the gap left by (the lower House of) Congress' failure to pass ENDA.

But in recent days, a new controversy has emerged. In the wake of the US Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, several LGBTQ civil rights organizations pulled their support of the current version of ENDA due to its religious exemptions. They then urged the President not to include any religious exemptions in his planned executive order.

He listened to them. The executive order that President Obama signed earlier today has no religious exemptions beyond what then President George W. Bush ordered for "faith based initiatives". And keep in mind that those "faith based" grants are separate from the federal contracts covered by this new executive order.

However, this may not be the end of it. Now that Hobby Lobby is on the books, it may inspire legal challenges to this executive order. While a full judicial overturn of the executive order seems unlikely now, LGBTQ civil rights advocates aren't taking anything for granted just yet.

And then, there's that other prickly issue, the issue that forced President Obama to sign this executive order in the first place. There's still no national ENDA in place. And now, the usual G-O-TEA suspects on Capitol Hill are blocking any legislative fixes to the statute the Supreme Court majority cited in Hobby Lobby.

As we've discussed here before, wrongful discrimination is still very much a reality for many people throughout the nation today. It can happen to food pantry workers. It can happen to police chiefs. It can happen to sport shop workers. And it can happen to college students.

Perhaps it won't happen at companies that happen to accept federal contracts any more... But when will the day arrive when all workers can live free of the fear that it might happen to them?

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