Today President Obama signed an executive order protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors from workplace discrimination. In remarks this morning, the president said that our government “will become just a little bit fairer” today.
President Obama pointed out that many Americans go to work every day with the fear that they could lose their job because of who they are. It’s time to “address this injustice for every American,” he said, urging Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). While today’s executive order expands protections to millions of LGBT people who work for federal contractors, we still lack a nationwide law to protect LGBT workers across the board. In many states, you can still be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Following the Obama administration’s announcement that an executive order was in the works, People For the American Way joined nearly 100 other organizations, including many faith groups, in a letter urging the president to reject a call for an additional religious exemption — which ultimately was not included. The letter noted:
Religious freedom is one of our most cherished values, a fundamental and defining feature of our national character. It guarantees us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs within certain limits. It does not, however, provide organizations the right to discriminate using taxpayer dollars. When a religiously affiliated organization makes the decision to request a taxpayer-funded contract with the federal government, it must play by the same rules as every other federal contractor. [emphasis added]
Jonathan Capehart from the Washington Post reports that in the past few weeks, there have been “extraordinary meetings” in the White House among LGBT and religious communities about both the necessity of protecting workers from discrimination and religious liberty. As Capehart writes, “The president’s action today shows the two are not mutually exclusive.”
WASHINGTON – In response to the Supreme Court decisions in Vance v. Ball State University, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, and Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett, People For the American Way Foundation President Michael B. Keegan released the following statement:
“In three closely divided decisions today, the five far-right Justices again opted to side with powerful corporations rather than protect the rights of individual workers and consumers. These decisions are just the latest example of this Supreme Court majority’s ideological agenda that undercuts the rights of everyday Americans.
“In her Vance dissent, Justice Ginsburg hit the nail on the head when she described instances of real-life work harassment and noted that ‘as anyone with work experience would immediately grasp,’ the reality faced by workers is very different from the assumptions of the Court’s right-wing majority. But as the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc has proven again today, rulings from this court follow the dictates of power—not law—and are entirely disconnected from the realities of most Americans. The highest court in the land has made clear that it’s committed to laying a blueprint for corporations to have free rein to trample the rights of individuals.”