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Filed under: ENDA

Where is the White House study on LGBT employment discrimination?

By Jacob Combs

President Obama speakng at Second Inaugural Address

In a piece published yesterday, Metro Weekly‘s Justin Snow examines the Obama administration’s sclerotic approach to LGBT employment discrimination protections:

It was more than a year ago, in April 2012, that leaders from some of the nation’s largest LGBT-rights organizations sat down for a meeting at the White House. In attendance was White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who told them that President Barack Obama would not sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from LGBT workplace discrimination

The news was a major and unexpected blow that came after weeks of speculation that the president would make good on his 2008 campaign promise to sign such an executive order, which would protect about 20 percent of the civilian workforce.

Among the consolations made to advocates in the room that day was news that a study would be conducted on LGBT workplace discrimination, possibly led by the Council of Economic Advisors, and released with the White House’s seal of approval. Advocates insisted the study was unnecessary and that plenty of data already existed. Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, was among those in the meeting and described announcement of the study as “confounding and disappointing.”

Never mind the fact–as underscored by HRC Vice President Fred Sainz in an email to Snow–that there was plenty of data on the issue and that further research was seen by LGBT advocates as unnecessary.

But as Snow points out, there has been no news from the White House on any such study, nor any course of action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit companies from firing employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, nor the issuing of an executive order banning such discrimination amongst federal contractors.  At yesterday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney responded to a Metro Weekly question on ENDA with, “I don’t have any updated status on that for you.”

There’s something remarkable about the fact that President Obama–and the Democratic Party at large–have so thoroughly rallied to the cause of marriage equality, an issue on which public opinion is shifting rapidly in favor but which remains an issue of marked contention amongst the American people.  Employment discrimination provisions, on the other hand, enjoy overwhelming public support (favored by more than 70 percent of Americans), yet the president and other politicians have seemed to drag their feet on the issue.  What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that ENDA has already been considered by the House and failed by a single vote, 49-50, in 1996–17 years ago!

Of course, it is possible (and likely) that the president and his allies are waiting until the Supreme Court acts on DOMA and Prop 8 to decide how to proceed with ENDA.  Although the two issues are substantially unrelated, the Court’s decisions on marriage equality later this month are undoubtedly going to be huge news that will dominate the media’s coverage of LGBT rights for a while.  It may be advisable to hold off an ENDA EO until after the decisions in order to maximize the political significance of the move.

Still, the end goal remains a legislative ENDA that would protect all workers, not just those who work for federal contractors.  Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is planning on holding a markup of ENDA this summer, and the chances for a full Senate vote look good for later this year.  But while the timing of these events remains murky, the White House’s position does not have to be.  Once the Supreme Court has issued its rulings, the White House should announce clearly and specifically how it plans to make ENDA law.

4 Comments June 5, 2013

Equality news round-up: Illinois and Ohio marriage equality updates, and more

By Scottie Thomaston Ohio state seal

– Exxon Mobil will vote again on LGBT antidiscrimination policies, but they have failed to allow these protections in the past. UPDATE: The protections were voted down.

– Another Illinois lawmaker announces support for marriage equality in the final days of the legislative session.

– The Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Ohio has announced support for marriage equality.

– Michele Bachmann, anti-LGBT representative from Minnesota, won’t seek re-election to Congress.

1 Comment May 29, 2013

Equality news round-up: Edie Windsor at NYU, ENDA news, and more

By Scottie Thomaston

Edie Windsor at NYU, Attribution: Towleroad
Edie Windsor at NYU, Attribution: Towleroad

– David Boies, Edie Windsor were honored at the NYU 2013 commencement.

– The Boy Scouts of America ended the ban on gay scouts yesterday; they didn’t end the ban on adult Scout leaders, and their statement notes that the policy on adult leaders wasn’t under consideration.

Huffington Post‘s Lila Shapiro has a report on the discrimination complaint against Exxon Mobil that EqualityOnTrial has discussed.

– Nothing will be done on ENDA until July.

3 Comments May 24, 2013

Nevada’s state Assembly taking action on pro-LGBT bills

By Scottie Thomaston

Nevada legislature
Nevada legislature

The state of Nevada is moving forward on pro-LGBT legislation. This week the state Assembly added gender identity and expression to its existing hate crimes legislation. The state’s Republican governor Brian Sandoval is expected to sign the bill:

Similar legislation passed in the state assembly during the last legislative session in 2011, only failing in the Senate. During that session, the legislature passed transgender inclusive non-discrimination legislation in housing, public accommodations and employment. Republican Governor Brian Sandoval signed all three pieces of legislation during the first year of his first term and is expected to sign this bill as well.

The bill passed overwhelmingly, with only one senator voting no last month, and a large number of House members voting for it this week:

The Assembly passed the measure on a 30-11 vote with only Republicans opposed. The bill already cleared the Senate and now heads to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“This does afford victims special rights,” said Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, who is openly gay. “This is a statement of what our society is, and that we will not tolerate the systematic targeting of individuals who are historically disadvantaged groups.”

Sandoval spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner told The Associated Press Tuesday that the governor supports the legislation.

The bill, SB139, would add “gender identity or expression” to the list of motivations deemed to be hate crimes under state law. Supporters outlined in graphic detail several instances of the violent nature of crimes motivated by hate, saying the added protection would help deter more violent crimes.

As EqualityOnTrial recently reported, the state is also moving forward on marriage equality, albeit at a much slower pace. A constitutional amendment to replace the anti-gay marriage amendment would eventually be placed on the ballot in 2016, after it passes this legislative session and then gets through the Assembly again in 2015. With three weeks left in the session, the bill should pass quickly.

Activists in the state have been pursuing marriage equality there for years. The state’s domestic partnership law treats same-sex couples almost exactly the same as opposite-sex married couples, but same-sex couples are denied the title of marriage. That regime is seen as irrational, and it’s being challenged in federal court by Lambda Legal in Sevcik v. Sandoval, who believes the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage denies them equal protection of the laws. That case is on hold, though, pending the Supreme Court decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor. The district court had ruled against the plaintiffs, same-sex couples, and the case is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, the proponents of the ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case before judgment at the appeals court. The plaintiffs oppose review at this stage. The Court hasn’t taken action on their petition and no other action is expected until the Court’s other rulings. The Sevcik case is expected to be heard on a parallel track with Hawaii’s marriage equality case, Jackson v. Abercrombie. The Ninth Circuit, which struck down Prop 8, seems like a more favorable court, so they may be inclined to strike down Nevada’s ban as well when it reaches them.

A recent poll showed majority support for the amendment to overturn the marriage equality far ahead of the 2016 election. Whether the courts strike the ban or voters invalidate it in 2016, things are progressing in Nevada.

May 15, 2013

Equality news round-up: Today’s Minnesota vote, ENDA update, and more

By Scottie Thomaston Capitol Hill

– Minnesota’s state senate is expected to pass the marriage equality bill when it takes up the bill today.

– A story profiling the undecided GOP votes in Minnesota.

– Some conservative MPs in the UK are pushing a referendum on marriage equality in order to water down the current legislation.

– LGBT groups want President Obama to push for the inclusion of LGBT families in immigration reform.

– The New York Times editorial board is calling for passage of ENDA.

– The California Assembly passed two transgender rights bills last week.

– A new Pew Research poll says 70 per cent of young adults support marriage equality.

May 13, 2013

Equality news round-up: Updates in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, and more

By Scottie Thomaston Pennsylvania State Seal

– Lawmakers in Minnesota who are supporting the marriage equality bill are considering a last-minute change to the bill, the addition of the word “civil” in front of “marriage”, in hopes of gaining the votes of legislators who might otherwise argue that religious institutions would be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

– In the UCLA Law Review, there are two notable articles on LGBT issues: Nan Hunter has written “Reflections on Sexual Liberty and Equality: “Through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall”“, and Douglas NeJaime has written “Framing (In)Equality for Same-Sex Couples”.

– In Pennsylvania, lawmakers have introduced two anti-discrimination bills aimed at protecting LGBT Pennsylvanians, this week. Think Progress notes that more than 70% of Pennsylvanians support these protections.

The Advocate profiles some people who have been fired from their jobs for being LGBT, and explains the need for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Buzzfeed spoke with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) about his views on LGBT issues like DOMA and ENDA, now that he has announced support for marriage equality. In response to a question about the criticism he received after announcing support for marriage equality only when his son came out, Portman said that he hadn’t thought much about marriage equality for same-sex couples before his son came out, but, he suggested, perhaps he should have.

– The Illinois GOP Chairman who recently announced his support for marriage equality has resigned from his position.

May 9, 2013

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