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Advocates seething over Obama’s inaction on LGBT workplace protections

Boehner says "no way” ENDA will pass this year
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Carolyn Kaster, APPresident Barack Obama signs a memorandum directing the Treasury Department to create a new retirement saving account after speaking at the U.S. Steel Irvin Plant, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in West Mifflin, Pa., about retirement policies he highlighted in the State of the Union address.

Carolyn Kaster, AP
President Barack Obama signs a memorandum on Wednesday directing the Treasury Department to create a new retirement saving account he highlighted in Tuesday’s the State of the Union address.

WASHINGTON — For some White House allies, the long list of executive actions President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address was marred by a few glaring omissions.

Gay rights advocates are seething over Obama’s refusal to grant employment discrimination protections to gays and lesbians working for federal contractors, safeguards they have been seeking for years. And some immigration overhaul supporters were disappointed that he did not act on his own to halt deportations, which have soared during his presidency and angered many Hispanics.

On both issues, White House officials say the place for action is in Congress, where successful legislation would be far more sweeping than the steps the president could take by himself.

But work on an employment non-discrimination bill and an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws is stalled on Capitol Hill, leaving advocates perplexed as to why their calls for executive action did not fit into Obama’s vow to act “whenever and wherever” Congress will not.

“In the absence of congressional action, an executive order that prohibits discrimination by contractors is a tailor-made solution to the president’s expressed aims,” said Fred Sainz, vice president of Human Rights Campaign. Sainz said his frustration with the White House’s inaction on the issue was “growing by the day.”

The criticism is particularly striking given that it is coming from two constituencies that have reliably supported the president.

More than 70 percent of Hispanic voters backed Obama in the 2012 presidential election, and the gay community has consistently praised him for his unprecedented support.

For gay rights advocates in particular, the frustration that followed the State of the Union was compounded by the fact that the president announced a minimum-wage executive order that in many ways mirrored the action they are seeking. The order raises the minimum hourly pay for new federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10.

Obama cast the move as an opportunity to make at least some progress on the issue while he pushes Congress to pass legislation extending the minimum to all workers.

Gay rights proponents have asked Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

At the same time, they want Congress to pass the broader Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which has the backing of the White House.

That measure passed the Senate last year but is stalled in the Republican-led House.

Heather Cronk, co-director of the organizations GetEqual, said Obama’s declining to sign the executive order means he is “actively choosing to permit discrimination against LGBT workers.”

On Wednesday, the Washington Blade reported that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told attendees last week at his first-ever meeting with the LGBT Equality Caucus there was “no way” ENDA would pass this year.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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40 more reader comments:

  1. You can’t really blame Obama too much. ENDA is just like the disability act in the sense that you still can be fired, reprimanded, or not even hired in the first place as long as the reason for any of those isn’t technically illegal. “Oh you’re gay? Well seven better qualified candidates just conveniently applied.” Add to that the religious exemption clause that is included with ENDA, and the unfortunate truth is it ultimately does very little to promote equality.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 10:56pm
  2. He can never please anyone it seems. He has done more for us than any other President and we are not the only issue this man has on his plate.
    Thank you Mr. President !

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 10:58pm
  3. amen! This has been my argument for a great many Obama "haters". No presidency has ever been perfect and none will ever be from here on out. He has done more for the GLBTQ community than any other. I will take that and be grateful that he isn't Hilter.

    Replied on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:06pm
  4. Thank you, Kimberly. Come on, people. This President has mentioned us in his INAUGURAL speech. And he has taken numerous actions to support our Community. How immature do we seem to the outside world when we throw a hissy fit because daddy didn't mention us in his most recent speech. Childish and needless drama.

    Replied on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:08pm
  5. You trivialize the issue Martin Cole. No one is complaining about not being mentioned in a speech. Obama announced a slew of planned executive orders, but refuses to sign one protecting LGBT federal contract workers, even as Boehner has said flat out ENDA will go no where in the House this year.

    Replied on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:15pm
  6. why can't the dems in the house do a discharge petition then??? the president can only do so much, the dems in the house should do their part too...

    Replied on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 1:37am
  7. The GOP obstructs and they’re mad at the president. What’s the logic?

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:06pm
  8. Greatest and strongest president we have ever seen.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:09pm
  9. everyone has their pet projects that they think everyone must support- my god he could not inculde everything or we would still be listening to the speach

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:13pm
  10. Boehner (boner) is a jerk and needs to retire!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:23pm
  11. we are stsrting to look like the haters lets commend what the president has done so far instead of basj=hing one of our fiercest allies

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:23pm
  12. looks like Obama isn’t for gay right since gay rights is a human right empach his ass

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:35pm
  13. For one he’s right. CLEAN HOUSE IN 2014! TURN IT BLUE, BLUE, BLUE!

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:52pm
  14. Just because he did not address it does not mean he won’t deal with it. Have faith in our president he does alot behind the scenes.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:53pm
  15. Why have faith in someone who fucks the people over???

    Replied on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:36am
  16. Most of the people commenting are not even gay. Psychology 101. Get over yourself. Obama is a man of dignity and will continue to support and advance equality.

    Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:57pm
  17. Lets wait and see…if not now, then right after the 2014 midterms…vote blue and clean the house!

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12:14am
  18. Okay advocates, it’s our turn to get a grip. As much as we might like it too, and as much as we need ENDA, the world does not revolve around us. There are other issues in need of resolving as well, and it would have been totally impossible for him to address each and every one of them individually in the time allotted.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12:17am
  19. I don’t think he’s finished with this issue yet.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12:21am
  20. We don’t even have marriage equaliry yet! These people are behaving like babies. We are not the only thing on the President’s plate. Why does every waking moment have to be about us? Progress on marriage has been swift, let’s finish that. Then the next thing. geesh

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12:23am
  21. Not my fav but he is still our president and we are to at least pray for our presidents. No one is perfect.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12:27am
  22. I agree, I was disappointed he did not address it directly in his speech or as one of his executive actions. He done good. I respect him and his decision making ability. We need to end employment discrimination. Have protections for LGBT community in place all across our nation, in every single state ( no periods, no butt’s, just do it. The right thing too do. Only fair thing to do.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12:41am
  23. boner should be taking more heat than obama. it’d be nice if obama at least said something, but there isn’t much he can do.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 12:42am
  24. Boehner can lick the favourite part of an ass.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 1:25am
  25. Thank you , Mr President ! <3

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 1:27am
  26. If every person of conscience votes straight line Democrat in November, we can send Boehner and his top 1% Republican buddies packing from Congress and ENDA can pass.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 1:32am
  27. ugh …so many Obama apologists…makes me sick

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 2:12am
  28. Yeah fuck this lying motherfucker of a president!!

    Replied on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:37am
  29. Let’s go blue this coming election!

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 2:33am
  30. The GOP is out of touch with the majority of Americans that want ENDA.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 3:07am
  31. BECAUSE HE IS A PIECE OF SHIT. I REFUSE TO SUPPORT A CHILD MURDERER SORRY

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 4:32am
  32. Of course Boehner says it won’t pass. He wants his state to be a sanctuary for hatred, discrimination, slave wages, and religious rule over all.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 4:55am
  33. Fuck this liar of a president. He’s no better than anybody before him

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:35am
  34. I don’t care how he does it. Obama better find the back room deal that makes ENDA a reality before his Presidency ends. I also suggest to all LGBT Democrats, it’s time for us to hold back every single donation … and god knows, they have been sending multiple email solicitations every single day and week. We need to see results before another dollar is donated. Period.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:47am
  35. Funny it almost passed in the 1990′s

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 5:55am
  36. Democrats want to keep the Senate and win back the Senate in 2014. SOTU took the center from the GOP. If GOP goes too far right, they could lose marginal seats. Moderate RINO will be targeted by TEA party. Too extreme for moderates.

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 6:47am
  37. I dont believe he said that! Lol

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 7:22am
  38. I’m voting Boner out!! Vote Democrat !!

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 7:36am
  39. It’ll pass….watch the mid term….

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 7:38am
  40. I wonder what Boehner has such a hard on against citizens?

    Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 9:17am