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Queer Talk: Taking Pride and Pressing for ENDA (Video)


The month of Pride festivals and parades and more is well underway, and this year in addition to a focus on the soon to be released SCOTUS decisions regarding marriage equality, a big part of taking Pride is pressing for the passage of ENDA, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and on the executive order candidate Obama promised to sign, but at the fifth WH Pride reception, still remains unsigned. The order would add sexual orientation and gender identity to employment protections for federal government contractors.

As he has every year in his presidency, Mr. Obama celebrated Pride with a White House reception, which occurred yesterday, and among other things, he did call for the passage of ENDA, but made no mention of the executive order. From the transcript of Obama’s remarks, via Pam’s House Blend (where you can see the entire transcript):

In 34 states, you can be fired just because of who you are or who you love. That’s wrong. We’ve got to change it. There’s a bipartisan bill moving forward in the Senate that would ban discrimination against all LGBT Americans in the workplace, now and forever. We need to get that passed. (Applause.) I want to sign that bill. We need to get it done now. (Applause.)

View the speech here:

At the Washington Blade, Chris Johnson includes a major focus on ENDA and the executive order in his report on the reception.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said ‘it’s fantastic’ that Obama spoke out in favor of ENDA during the reception, but wants the president to take additional action behind the scenes.

‘He should follow up his speech today by placing phone calls to lobby ENDA’s holdout Democratic senators like Florida’s Bill Nelson, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Mark Pryor of Arkansas,’ Almeida said. …

Fred Sainz, vice president communications of the Human Rights Campaign, said he appreciates Obama’s support for legislation, but reminded him that issuing the executive order takes only the stroke of a pen.

‘We’re elated to have the president’s support for ENDA,’ Sainz said. ‘But we also want his support for an executive order. ENDA need not come before an EO. People’s jobs are on the line and there’s no time to waste.’

Almeida also renewed his call on President Obama to sign the executive order … .
‘… (N)o presidential speech or Champagne reception compares to the strong workplace protections that we will achieve once President Obama honors his five-year-old campaign promise to sign the federal contractor executive order,’ Almeida said.

Johnson mentions an earlier report from the Blade, in which an email from Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias said the executive order “will happen,” but that “‘a process’ is holding up the directive …”.

Before the reception, at Buzzfeed, Chris Geidner also focused on ENDA, and on that executive order. About that, Giedner quotes the Human Rights Campaign’s president Chad Griffin.

‘It is something that this president can do that has immediate impact on real people’s lives. … I wish he would have done it a long time ago, and I hope he does it sooner rather than later because it was a promise that was made, it is something that he can easily do and have direct and immediate impact on thousands upon thousands of people’s lives with the stroke of a pen.’

Coming from HRC, that, and the remarks from Sainz in the Blade piece, are about as much frustration as you’re likely to hear expressed, at least publicly.

Geidner asked Griffin about the recent actions of GetEqual, with whom Ellen Sturtz – the woman who interrupted First Lady Michelle Obama at a DNC fundraiser. Interestingly, Griffin again turned the focus back on the president.

‘I would let them speak for themselves. I do know that the way that that and all the other actions around this go away is a very simple one: The president issues the executive order.’

GetEqual was in DC yesterday. From the Blade:

Earlier on Thursday, eight activists from Ohio and Texas affiliated with GetEQUAL were arrested outside House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office in D.C. after they called on him to move forward with ENDA. Receiving no commitments from him, they also called on Obama to issue the executive order.

And about ENDA, another step forward is reported at Huffington Post, by Jennifer Bendery:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday that he’ll co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a major boost for the bill aimed at banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. …

Reid’s announcement makes him the 50th cosponsor of ENDA. He said earlier this week that he expects it to reach the Senate floor ‘soon.’

Passage in the House is unlikely, but debate in the Senate can help with needed education of what lack of employment protections means in real life. And for those who insist that pressuring the Obama administration regarding the executive order is a bad idea, because such an order can be overturned by the next occupant of the WH – well, yes, that could happen. But before it did (maybe), thousands of people will have protections and millions will be able to see the sky didn’t fall as a result.

HRC’s Griffin offered a simple summary regarding ENDA and the executive order, when asked, by Geidner at Buzzfeed, about the much talked about “legislative action” preference of the White House: “It’s not either-or; it’s both.”

(You can also check out the Pride Month remarks by Sec. of State John Kerry here.)

(Obama Biden Pride Reception Capture Via White House You Tube)

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