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Despite Marriage Equality Shift, Obama Still Won’t Sign LGBT Anti-Discrimination Executive Order

I think that the President’s announcement yesterday on marriage equality is worthy of praise. Yet I also see John Cole’s point that, at the end of the day, the President merely expressed an opinion. Presidents expressing an opinion matters more than, say, me expressing one, but we can judge on actions and not words. And there is a list of advances over the last four years on gay rights.

That’s why it’s so puzzling that, on the same day as this expression of opinion, the Administration reiterated that they will not sign the executive order banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation at federal contractors. That nugget is buried at the bottom of this Sam Stein piece chronicling the evolution:

The senior administration officials declined to say whether the president would now push for gay marriage to be part of the Democratic Party’s platform at the convention. They also said they were not changing positions on an Executive Order that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against federal contractors. The president has said he would not sign that order.

Keep in mind that the boycott by LGBT donors had nothing to do with the President’s position on marriage equality. It was because of the executive order. I suppose that now, the campaign feels they will reignite LGBT fundraising with the marriage equality shift, so they don’t have to lift a finger on something tangible.

It’s a weird thing to hold out on. Nobody doubts that the President could do this tomorrow with the stroke of a pen. It would not change in any way the need for legislation like ENDA to ensure protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, but it wouldn’t inhibit it either. During the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, the Administration and the Defense Department passed a number of executive orders and administrative rule changes to limit the damage from DADT. That had no impact on the repeal process. The idea that a lasting piece of legislation would be needed to ensure workplace protections for gays and lesbians is not a good excuse here. The point is that nobody doubts this is within the President’s power, he’s already made himself more than clear that he’s on the side of greater equality and civil rights, and yet the Administration just doesn’t want to perform this gesture, which would add protections for untold thousands of gay and lesbian Americans. Is the political risk of offending swing-state voters in North Carolina less potent than the risk of offending federal contractors who would not be allowed to fire somebody because they are gay? Is that the point here?

I’ve been trying to find out whether the donor boycott is still operative at this point, and haven’t yet been successful, but I’m still working on it. Certainly, we know that nothing has changed with respect to the impetus for the boycott.

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David Dayen

David Dayen