With the announcement this month that President Barack Obama intends to sign an executive order barring federal government contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers, it’s clear the administration is taking the opportunity of Gay Pride Month to underscore its support for the community.
At a June 17 LGBT fundraiser at Manhattan’s Gotham Hall — a day after news of the impending executive order broke — the president said, “Congress has been considering legislation to protect LGBT workers for decades. I want you to understand — for decades. Last November, it finally looked like we were getting somewhere. The Senate passed ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It had strong bipartisan support. But shockingly enough, the House refused to act… That’s why I’ve directed my staff to prepare for my signature an executive order prohibiting discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
During the same remarks, Obama also spoke about seeing the HBO film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart,” and said, “I know that many people in this room have photographs with smiling friends from days gone by, and a lot of those friends are gone, taken before their time — both because of a disease and because there was a government that failed to recognize that disease in time.”
Just weeks before, a US Health and Human Services Department panel ruled that Medicare would now cover “medically necessary” gender reassignment surgery. The Department of Education announced it would extend Title IX gender equity provisions of federal law to protect transgender students. The Department of Labor initiated a rulemaking to guarantee that married same-sex couples enjoy the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act whether or not they live in a marriage equality state. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell traveled to Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn to announce a new federal initiative to preserve significant LGBT historical sites. And on June 24, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, delivered the keynote address at a White House Forum on LGBT Human Rights.
Serendipitously, on June 17, the Senate confirmed two openly gay nominees the president named to the federal judiciary — Darrin Gayles in the Southern District of Florida and Salvador Mendoza in the Eastern District of Washington.
Meanwhile, in addition to the House Republicans’ resistance to ENDA, the Texas GOP approved a party platform endorsing conversion therapy to “cure” LGBT people of their orientation.
With difficult midterm elections coming up in November, the White House must be hoping that LGBT voters understand that elections have consequences.