It may come as a surprise to many, but there are more than 30 states that allow employers to fire an employee for being gay, bisexual, transgendered or lesbian. Obama want to stop this workplace discrimination, and on Thursday he urged Congress to pass legislation to that end. Speaking from the East Room of the White House during a reception, the President explained his goal to see the pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act become the law of the land:
“We need to get that passed. I want to sign that bill. We need to get it done now,” he said, stating that discrimination against gays and lesbians is wrong and must come to an end “now and forever.” The act would prohibit unfair treatment of a person based on their actual or perceived orientation, and would apply to employers, unions, employment agencies and any entity or person who employs workers.
The June call to action is significant because June is considered “Pride Month” in the LBGT community, and is marked with parades in multiple cities as well as lobbying efforts for strong pro-LGBT legislation. The President spoke in front of a room of activists and addressed several of them personally, including a couple who has been together for over 37 years. He said “we are reaching a turning point, becoming not just more accepting, but more loving as a country and as a people. Hearts and minds change with time; laws do too.” Several openly gay members of the supported the bill spoke in its favor, including Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) who said:
President Obama has moved the conversation on LGBT rights forward at an unbelievable rate, and has proved himself to be an unshakable ally to the movement, but because of the failures of Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Cantor, Congress has not taken action on employment discrimination. As a result, I strongly encourage the President to take action and issue an Executive Order to protect LGBT Americans who work for Federal agencies or contractors. This way, thousands of Americans who live in states without nondiscrimination protections can finally be treated equally in the workplace.
But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) disagreed. When advocacy group Think Progress asked him about this bill at a luncheon, he indicated he would vote against it, saying “I’m not for any special protections based on orientation.”
With most Americans now supporting gay marriage, societal norms are undoubtedly shifting in favor of gay rights. But a PEW study released this week showed that over half of gay people surveyed feel that they continue to face discrimination, despite wins in overall public perception of the LGBT community. According to Think Progress, “nine out of ten Americans mistakenly think it is illegal to fire someone for being gay.”
President Obama agrees that we are still a long way off from where we need to be when it comes to ending discrimination against gays and lesbians, saying there is more work to be done to reach the final goal of complete equality for all.
By: Rebecca Savastio
Sources: The Washington Post