President Obama has reportedly decided to sign an executive order to bar federal government contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The news did not sit well with Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council.
In a statement on behalf of the FRC today, Sprigg warns that the executive order will undermine “religious and constitutional liberties” and lead to a flood of lawsuits.
This political gesture reflects the president's repeated disregard for the legislative process. Congress has not passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) or similar provisions, despite activists' pressure to do so, because of the detrimental impact on employers' and employees' constitutional freedoms of religion, speech, and association. Historically, these kinds of provisions have not been applied to conduct-based distinctions that are not found in the Constitution.
Today's announced executive order will give activists a license to challenge their employers whenever they feel aggrieved, exposing those employers to threats of costly legal proceedings and the potential of jeopardizing future contracts. Furthermore, by requiring federal contractors to consider characteristics and behaviors related to a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, this policy will make contractors liable for protecting actual or perceived self-disclosed and fluid identities that may not even be known.
The timing of this announcement is clearly designed to curry favor with activist organizations. While the president prepares to address a New York gathering of gay rights supporters, the American people will be left to sort out the costs to religious and constitutional liberties resulting from this executive order.