On the Hill: Obama Takes Step Forward on LGBT Rights

In April I wrote about how President Obama could protect LGBT workers with unilateral action since the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (which would update federal anti-discrimination regulations to prevent workplace discrimination against a person because of their gender identity or sexual orientation) appeared to be stalled in Congress.

I mentioned at the time how Obama could sign an executive order providing workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans in the federal workforce without the approval of the notoriously gridlocked Congress. And while I noted that this executive order would apply only to contractors and businesses that work with the federal government and not all employers, I felt—and continue to feel—that such an action would be a huge step forward in the battle for workplace equality.

Thankfully, the media has reported that President Obama is about to issue such an executive order in the coming days.

This is fantastic news, especially since the renewed attention to LGBT rights could be the spark needed to finally convince House Speaker John Boehner to allow the bill to come to the floor for a vote (the Senate has already passed their own ENDA bill). But whether or not that actually happens, and in all likelihood it probably won’t due to religious conservatives in the House, federal contractors must now recognize that it is just as wrong to discriminate against a potential employee because of their sexual orientation as it is to do so because of their race or gender.

President Obama seems to be rededicating himself to the progressive causes that many of his supporters champion on a daily basis, as seen by his recent work on issues like climate change. While this is a promising start to what could be his most progressive period in the White House, it’s worth noting that the president still has some work to do regarding religious exemptions to his landmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, and in ensuring that the privacy of Americans is protected from overzealous intelligence agencies.

But for now, humanists and progressive Americans should be proud of their president for his defense of the LGBT community and his promotion of anti-discrimination regulations. Hopefully, his recent progressive bent will continue throughout the remainder of his term, as there is still much to be accomplished in various issue areas.

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