In an historic vote the LGBT community and our allies, Democrats and Republicans, have succeeded in moving the Senate to pass the inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The vote was 64 to 32. This is a giant step forward in the march for equal rights for the LGBT community.
A non-inclusive ENDA (not covering Transgender persons) was passed in the House in 2007. It passed because of the efforts and support of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and others like then-Representative and now-Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). But many believed it was mainly because of the singular dedication of openly gay former Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) who gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the House the day it was voted on. He got attacked by some in the LGBT community for being willing to pass the bill that didn't cover transgender persons. But that was a different time and people weren't ready to pass an inclusive bill. We now know it has taken nearly 7 years to get this bill brought up again in either chamber of Congress.
Today we have seen the fruits of the labor of many people, both gay and straight, who continue to fight this battle and all the battles necessary to ensure full civil and human rights for the LGBT community. In some ways it is incongruous that it seems easier today to get a marriage-equality bill passed in the states; and Congress has banned discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military; before we can get the Congress to simply agree that there shouldn't be discrimination in employment. There could be instances where a gay or lesbian individual serves openly in the military; gets legally married; but when they leave the military as an 'out' member of the LGBT community they can be discriminated against for employment in 29 states. In 33 states transgender persons can be discriminated against simply because of who they are and how they identify.
The fight now heads to the House of Representatives where Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has already said he opposes the bill and will not even bring it up for a vote. So, while we continue to fight, it does appear that ENDA will not become law this year.
That brings us to the role of the president. In 2008 when running for President Barack Obama committed to signing an Executive Order to ban discrimination against the LGBT community in hiring by federal contractors. Thus far he has not taken pen to paper even though it is commonly believed that the Executive Order has been vetted and is simply waiting for him to act.
He has stated that he is waiting to act because he wants this to be done legislatively. Some in the LGBT community have accepted that and continue to wait. But it is now very clear that once again ENDA will not be passed and sent to him for his signature this year. Meanwhile billions of dollars are being spent daily by government contractors who are still free to discriminate against LGBT persons looking for employment.
Mr. President the time to act is NOW. Please pick up your pen and sign that Executive Order. Those persons being discriminated against can't wait any longer. Their families can't wait any longer. And the LGBT community and those who support our rights shouldn't be asked to or consent to wait any longer.
It is time to keep that promise you made in 2008. Please pick up your pen and sign that order today, it is the right thing to do.