White House Holds High-Level Meeting to Discuss Workplace Protections

Metro Weekly
By Chris Geidner
April 11, 2012

At 3 p.m. today, LGBT advocates went to the White House to attend a meeting being led by White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett to discuss advocates and the administration’s work addressing anti-LGBT workplace discrimination, according to two sources familiar with but not attending the meeting.

Among those attending the meeting were Winnie Stachelberg, of Center for American Progress; Rea Carey, of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Tico Almeida, of Freedom to Work; Joe Solmonese and David Smith, of the Human Rights Campaign; and gay Democratic lobbyists Steve Elmendorf and Robert Raben. Also invited was a representative from the National Center for Transgender Equality. None of the attendees seen entering the meeting were willing to provide comment at this time on the purpose of the meeting.

The LGBT organization advocates attending the meeting and others have been pushing President Obama to issue an executive order banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity among federal contractors. Metro Weekly reported exclusively in Marchthat President Obama had told the Houston GLBT Political Caucus more than four years ago that he would support such a policy as president.

Although the White House has endorsed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the House Republican leadership opposes the bill and the Senate did not move the bill in the 111th Congress, when it had more Democrats in the chamber.

The government also has another route — the executive order path — in the case of a not insignificant number of employers. Because 22 percent of the jobs in this country are with employers who contract with the federal government, according to Freedom to Work’s Almeida, the Department of Labor has some authority to redress discrimination by federal contractors.

The White House, however, has been silent on the possibility of such an order, leaving unanswered repeated questions from the White House press corps about the possibility — as recently as this week.

Since 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has ensured that all federal contractors doing more than $10,000 in government contract work in a year comply with the executive order’s equal employment opportunity policy. This prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It does not include sexual orientation or gender identity.

Almeida, CAP, the Williams Institute and others have been pushing for Obama to sign an executive order that would expand Executive Order 11246 to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. The move is similar to the expansion that President Bill Clinton made by adding “sexual orientation” to Executive Order 11478, which prohibits discrimination in the federal workforce, in May 1998.

Several sources outside the administration familiar with the process told Metro Weekly in January that a proposed expansion of the federal contractor nondiscrimination executive order to include sexual orientation and gender identity has been given the OK by both the Labor Department, which oversees federal contract compliance, and the Justice Department and that the executive order proposal is at the White House. The White House has not confirmed the claim.

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